Skip to main content

Full text of "Improvisation For The Theater A Handbook Of Teaching And Directing Techniques"

See other formats


792.02 S76i 68-75 ^i 

Spolin 

Improvisation for the theater 




^_.. rt . 
3 1148 00628 9243 



APR... 




6~1"972 



.HJ 
WAJ 



4MLJDCL5Z 




-4- 



Improvisation for the Theater 



IMPROVISATION 

for the 

THEATER 



A Handbook of Teaching 
and Directing Techniques 

By 

VIOLA SPOLIN 



Northwestern University Press 



Copyright 1963 by Viola Spolin 

All rights reserved 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 63-7579 

Manufactured in the U.S.A. 



Anyone wishing to make commercial use of scenes, exercises* or 
other material from this book is obliged to apply For permission 
to the author; 

Viola Spolin 

c/o Northwestern University Press 
1840 Sheridan Road 
Evanston, Illinois 



To Neva L Boyd 
Ed and all the YAC's 
and my sons Paul and Bill 



Acknowledgments 

I wish to thank Neva L. Boyd for the inspiration she gave 
me in the field of creative group play. A pioneer in her field, she 
founded the Recreational Training School at Chicago's Hull 
House, and from 1927 until her retirement in 1941 she served 
as a sociologist on the faculty of Northwestern University. From 
1924 to 1927 as her student at Hull House, I received from her 
an extraordinary training in the use of games, story-telling, folk 
dance, and dramatics as tools for stimulating creative expression 
In both children and adults, through self-discovery and personal 
experiencing. The effects of her inspiration never left me for a 
single day. 

Subsequently, three years as teacher and supervisor of crea- 
tive dramatics on the WPA Recreational Project in Chicago 
where most of the students had little or no background in theater 
or teaching provided the opportunity for my first direct experi- 
ments in teaching drama, from which developed a non-verbal, 
non-psychological approach. This period of growth was most 
challenging, as I struggled to equip the participating men and 
women with adequate knowledge and technique to sustain them 
as teacher-directors in their neighborhood work. 

I am also grateful for the insights I have had, at spo- 
radic times throughout my life, into the works of Constantin 
Stanislavsky. 

To my son, Paul Sills who with David Shepherd founded 
the first professional improvisational theater in the country, the 
Compass I owe the first gathering of my material, and I am 



vii 



Acknowledgments 



b 



grateful for his assistance in the writing of the first manuscript 
a dozen or so years ago and his experimental use of it at the 
University of Bristol while a Fulbright scholar. He has since ap- 
plied aspects of this system with actors at the Second City in 
Chicago. The final revision of this book could only take place after 
I came to Chicago, observed his work with his company, and 
sensed his vision of where it could go. 

I wish to thank all my California students who nagged me 
over the years; and my assistant Robert Martin, who was with 
me during the eleven years of the Young Actors Company in 
Hollywood where most of the system was developed; and Edward 
Spolin, whose special genius for set design framed the Young 
Actors in glory. 

My grateful thanks to Helene Koon of Los Angeles, who 
helped me through the second rewrite of the manuscript, and 
all my dear Chicago friends and students who helped in every 
way they could during the arduous task of completing the third 
and final draft of the manuscript. 



Preface 

The stimulus to write this handbook can be traced back 
beyond the author's early work as drama supervisor on the Chi- 
cago WPA Recreational Project to childhood memories of de- 
lightful spontaneous "operas" that were performed at family 
gatherings. Here, her uncles and aunts would "dress up" and 
through song and dialogue poke fun at various members of the 
family and their trials and predicaments with language and 
jobs as newcomers to America. Later, during her student days 
with Neva Boyd, her brothers, sisters, and friends would gather 
weekly to play charades (used as WORD GAME In this book), 
literally tearing the house apart from kitchen to living room as 
pot covers became breastplates for Cleopatra and her hand- 
maidens and drapes from the window became a cloak for Satan. 

Using the game structure as a basis for theater training, as a 
means to free the child and the so-called amateur from mechan- 
ical, stilted stage behavior, she wrote an article on her observa- 
tions, Working primarily with children and neighborhood adults 
at a settlement-house theater, she was also stimulated by the 
response of school audiences to her small troupe of child impro- 
visers. In an effort to show how the improvising game worked, 
her troupe asked the audience for suggestions which the players 
then made into scene improvisations. A writer friend who was 
asked to evaluate the article she wrote about these activities 
exclaimed, "This isn't an article it's an outline for a book!" 

The idea for a book was put aside until 1945, when, after 
moving to California and establishing the Young Actors Com- 
pany in Hollywood, the author again began experimenting with 



ix 



Preface, 

theater techniques with boys and girls. The creative group work 
and game principles learned from Neva Boyd continued to be 
applied to the theater situation in both workshops and rehearsal 
of plays. Gradually the word "player" was introduced to replace 
"actor" and "physicalizing w to replace "feeling." At this time, 
the problem-solving and point-of-conccntration approach was 
added to the game structure. 

The training continued to develop the form that had appeared 
earlier in the Chicago Experimental Theater scene improvisa- 
tionalthough the primary goal remained that of training lay 
actors and children within the formal theater. The players created 
scenes themselves without benefit of an outside playwright or 
examples by the teacher-director while they were being freed to 
receive the stage conventions. Using the uncomplicated guiding 
structure labeled Where, Who, and What, they were able to 
put the full range of spontaneity to work as they created scene 
after scene of fresh material. Involved with the structure and con- 
centrating upon solving a different problem in each exercise, they 
gradually shed their mechanical behaviorisms,, emoting,, etc,, and 
they entered into the stage reality freely and naturally, skilled 
in improvisational techniques and prepared to act difficult roles in 
written plays. 

Although the material has been drafted for publication for 
many years, its final form was reached after the author observed 
how improvisation works professionally at the Second City in 
Chicago, the improvisational theater of her son, director Paul 
Sills. His further development of the form in use professionally 
brought new discoveries and the introduction of many newly 
invented exercises in her Chicago workshops. The manuscript 
underwent total revision to include the new material and to 
present the clearest use of the form for professional as well as 
community and children's theater. 

The handbook is divided into three parts. The first is con- 
cerned with the theory and foundations for teaching and direct- 
ing theater, the second with an outline of workshop exercises^ 
and the third with special comments on children in the theater 
and directing the formal play for the community theater. 

The handbook is equally valuable for professionals, lay actors, 
and children. For the school and community center it offers a 



Preface 

detailed workshop program. For directors of community and 
professional theater it provides insight into their actors' problems 
and techniques for solving them. To the aspiring actor or director 
it brings an awareness of the inherent problems which lie before 
him. The film director who wishes to use local, untrained people 
for some of his scenes, will find many of the simplier game-exer- 
cises a valuable assist. 



Contents 

Acknowledgments vii 

Preface ix 

Alphabetical List of Exercises xyii 

List of Illustrations xxv 

THEORY AND FOUNDATION 

I. CREATIVE EXPERIENCE 3 

Seven Aspects of Spontaneity 4 

II. WORKSHOP PROCEDURES 18 

Physical Set-Up of the Workshops 31 

Reminders and Pointers 36 



EXERCISES 

III. ORIENTATION 49 

Orientation Purposes 49 

First Orientation Session 50 

Second Orientation Session 62 

Third Orientation Session 67 

Fourth Orientation Session 73 

Fifth Orientation Session 77 

Summary 87 

IV. WHERE 89 

Introduction 89 

First Where Session 90 

Second Where Session 101 

xiii 



Contents 



Third Where Session 105 

Fourth Where Session 110 

Fifth Where Session 113 

Sixth Where Session 115 

Seventh Where Session 116 

Eighth Where Session 118 

Ninth Where Session 120 

Exercises for Three More Where Sessions 125 
Additional Exercises for Heightening the 

Reality of Where 127 
Additional Exercises for Solving Problems 

of Where 138 

V, ACTING WITH THE WHOLE BODY 146 

Exercises for Parts of the Body 147 

Exercises for Total Body Involvement 152 

VI. NON-DIRECTIONAL BLOCKING 156 

Fundamentals 156 

Exercises 158 

VII. REFINING AWARENESS 169 

Listening 170 

Seeing and Not Staring 174 

Verbal Agility 178 

Contact 184 

Silence 188 

VIII. SPEECH, BROADCASTING, AND TECHNICAL EFFECTS 194 

Speech 194 

Radio and TV 197 

Technical Effects 203 

IX. DEVELOPING MATERIAL FOR SITUATIONS 207 

X. RouNDiNG-Otrr EXERCISES 225 

Speech 225 

Physicalization 227 

Seeing 231 
Developing Scenes from Audience Suggestions 233 

XI. EMOTION 237 

Physicalization 239 

Conflict 248 



Contents 

XII. CHARACTER 253 

Developing a Character 254 

Who Games 257 

Physicalizing Attitudes 259 

Physical Visualization 261 

Physical Attributes 265 

Developing Character Agility 269 

CHILDREN AND THE THEATER 

XIII. UNDERSTANDING THE CHILD 277 

The Teacher's Attitude 278 

The Individual and the Group 279 

The Child Actors Theater Environment 280 

Games 280 

Attention and Energy 282 

Dramatic Play 282 

Natural Acting 284 

The Fight for Creativity 285 

Discipline Is Involvement 286 

The Uncertain Child 289 

XIV. FUNDAMENTALS FOR CHILD ACTORS 290 

Inner Action 290 

Giving Reality with Objects 291 

The Telephone Prop 292 

Terms To Use 294 

Evaluation 295 

Points To Remember 297 

XV. WORKSHOP FOR SIX-TO-EIGHT- YEAR-OLDS 300 

Planning the Sessions 300 

First Workshop Session 301 

Exercises 307 

THE FORMAL THEATER 

XVI. PREPARATION 317 

The Director 319 

Theme 321 

Choosing the Play 322 

Seeking the Scene 324 

xv 



Contents 

Casting 325 

The Acting Side 327 

XVII. REHEARSAL AND PERFORMANCE 329 

Organizing the Rehearsal Time 329 

Seasoning the Actor 338 

Acting Exercises during Rehearsals 345 
Suggestions for the First Rehearsal Section 352 
Suggestions for the Second Rehearsal Section 353 
Suggestions for the Third Rehearsal Section 355 

The Performance 361 

Random Pointers 361 

XVIII. POST-MORTEM AND SPECIAL PROBLEMS 363 

The Time Chart for Rehearsals 363 

Directing the Child Actor 368 

Removing Amateur Qualities 370 

DEFINITION OF TERMS 

DEFINITION OF TERMS 375 

RECOMMENDED GAME BOOKS 

RECOMMENDED GAME BOOKS 394 



YVl 



Alphabetical List of Exercises 

The Abstract Where A 142 

The Abstract Where B 143 

Add an Object Where #1 87 

Add an Object Where #2 112 

Add a Part 86 

Animal Images 262 

Art Gallery 139 

Audience Directs 235 

Basic Blind 171 

Begin and End 135 

Begin and End with Objects 79 

Blind for Advanced Students A 172 

Blind for Advanced Students B 172 

Calling-Out Exercise 194 

Camera 231 

Changing Emotion 241 

Changing Intensity of Inner Action 242 

Changing Places 165 

Character Agility A 269 

Character Agility B 270 

Character Agility C 271 

Character Agility D 271 

Character Agility E 271 

Choral Reading 195 

xvii 



List of Exercises 

Conflict Exercise 250 

Conflict Game 252 

Contrapuntal Argument A 180 

Contrapuntal Argument B 181 
Contrapuntal Argument C (Transformation of Point of View) 181 

Converge and Re-Divide 163 

Conversation with Involvement 76 

Costume Piece 266 

Creating Moods on Stage 204 

Creating Scenes without Costumes 314 

Creating a Stage Picture 273 

Deaf Audience 227 

Difficulty with Small Objects 67 

Drawing Objects Game 78 

Dubbing 227 

Emotion Game 245 

Emotion through Camera Techniques 247 

Exchanging Where 117 

Excursions into the Intuitive 191 

Exercise for Back 150 

Exits and Entrances 167 

Exploration of Larger Environment 116 

Explore and Heighten ( Transformation of Beat ) 235 

Eye Contact #1 176 

Eye Contact #2 176 

Feeling Self with Self 51 

Feet and Legs Alone 147 

Finding Objects in the Immediate Environment 105 

First Radio Exercise 198 

Gibberish Exercise #l~Demonstration 123 

Gibberish Exercise #2~Past Incident 123 

Gibberish #3~Teaching 124 

Gibberish #4-~The Gibberish Game 125 

Gibberish #5-Where with Gibberish 125 

Gibberish #6-Foreign Language 126 



List of Exercises 

Gibberish #7-Two Scenes with Gibberish 127 

Gibberish #8-Giving a Lecture 226 

Gibberish #9-Foreign-Language Rhythms 226 

Give and Take 230 

Greek Chorus 196 

Group Touch Exercise #1 57 

Group Touch Exercise #2 57 

Hands Alone 148 

Hero Exercise 214 

Hidden Conflict 250 

Hidden Problem 221 

Hold It! A 259 

Hold It! B 260 

Hold It! C 260 

How Old Am I? 68 

How Old Am I? Repeat 69 

Identifying Objects Game 56 

Inability To Move A 239 

Inability To Move B 239 

Integration of On-Stage and Back-Stage Action A 203 

Integration of On-Stage and Back-Stage Action B 204 

Involvement without Hands 65 

Involvement with the Immediate Environment 118 

Involvement with Large Objects 77 

Involvement in Threes or More 64 

Involvement in Twos 64 

It's Heavier When It's Full 71 

Jump Emotion 243 

Leaving Something on Stage 216 

Listening to the Environment 55 

Lone Wolf 164 

Maintaining Surface Heights 79 

Man-on-the-Street A 201 

Man-on-the-Street B 201 



xix 



List of Exercises 

Man-on-the-Street C 201 

Metronome Exercise 229 

Mirror Exercise #1 60 

Mirror Exercise #2 66 

Mirror Exercise #3 75 

Mirror Exercise #4 175 

Mirror Exercise #5 234 

Mirror Exercise #6 234 

Mirror Exercise #7 234 

Mirror Exercise #8 235 

Mob Scenes 166 

Name Six Game 63 

Nervous Habits or Tics 268 

No Motion #1 189 

No Motion #2 191 

No Motion #3 191 

No Motion #4 191 

No-Motion Warm-Up 85 

Object Moving Players 70 

Observation Game 62 

On the Spot A 233 

On the Spot B 233 

Once Upon a Time, Minimum Equipment 303 

Once Upon a Time, Full Stage 307 

Orchestration 220 

Orientation Game #1 62 

Orientation Game #2 66 

Orientation Game #3 72 

Part of a Whole 73 

Parts of the Body: Full Scene 152 

Penetration 86 

Physical Exaggeration 265 

Physical Irritation A 266 

Physical Irritation B 267 

Pitchman 176 

Play Ball 63 



List of Exercises 

Poetry-Building 180 

Preoccupation A 133 

Preoccupation B 158 

Puppets and/or Automation 154 

Quick Selection Exercise for Where 116 

Random Walk 221 

Rejection 246 

Relating an Incident 170 

Rhythmic Movement 153 

Ruminating 137 

Scene-on-Scene 217 

Seeing a Sport 54 

Seeing a Sport, Recall 54 

Seeing the Word 232 

Sending Someone On Stage 144 

Shadowing 177 

Showing Emotion through Objects #1 244 

Showing Emotion through Objects #2 245 

Showing Where without Objects 143 

Showing Where through Who and What 145 

Showing Who through the Use of an Object 139 

Sight-Lines (Transformation of Stage Picture) 166 

Silent Scream 239 

Silent Tension 188 

Singing Dialogue 225 

Space Substance (Transformation of Objects) 81 

The Specialized Where 138 

Stage Whisper 195 

Story-Building 179 

Story-Telling 312 

Suggestions by the Audience 222 

Supplication 219 

Taste and Smell 58 

Telephone 225 

Television Exercise 202 



xxi 



List of Exercises 

Television Screen 215 

Tense Muscle 153 

Theme-Scene 218 

Three Changes 73 

Throwing Light Game 179 

The Thumbnail Sketch 144 

Total Body Involvement 152 

Trapped 78 

Transformation of Relationship (Who) 272 

Transforming the Object 214 

Tug-of-War 61 

Two Scenes 160 

Using Objects To Evolve Scenes A 212 

Using Objects To Evolve Scenes B 213 

Verbalizing the Where 128 

Vocal Sound Effects 205 

Wandering Speech A 182 

Wandering Speech B 183 

Weather Exercise #1 113 

Weather Exercise #2 114 

Weather Exercise #3 114 

What Am I Listening To? 55 

What Do I Do for a Living? 74 

What Do I Do for a Living? Repeat 126 

What Time Is It? A 107 

What Time Is It? B 108 

What Time Is It? C 108 

What To Do with the Object 251 

What's Beyond? A 102 

What's Beyond? B 103 

What's Beyond? C 103 

What's Beyond? D 130 

What's Beyond? E 131 

What's Beyond? F 131 

Where Exercise i 92 

The Where Game 101 



List of Exercises 

Where Homework Exercise 141 

Where without Hands 145 

Where with Help 103 

Where with Obstacles 104 

Where with Set Pieces 140 

Where through Three Objects 119 

Where with Unrelated Activity ( What ) 106 

Whisper-Shout Exercise 196 

Who Game A 109 

Who Game B 257 

Who Game C 258 

Who Game, Adding Conflict 259 

Who Game, Adding Where and What 115 

Who Started the Motion? 67 

Who's Knocking? A 110 

Who's Knocking? B 110 

Word Game A 207 

Word Game B 209 



XXlll 



List of Illustrations 

SKETCHES 

Suggested Floorplan Symbols 93 

Building the Floorplan 94 
Original Floorplan Compared to Audiences 

Floorplan 96 

Additional Information on Floorplans 100 

PHOTOGRAPHS 

Original Second City Cast following 166 

Workshop Scenes 

Random Walk following 294 

Once Upon a Time 
Young Actors Company 



Theory and Foundation 



I. Creative Experience 

Everyone can act. Everyone can improvise. Anyone who 
wishes to can play in the theater and learn to become "stage- 
worthy." 

We learn through experience and experiencing, and no^ one 
teaches anyone anything. This is as true for the infant moving 
from kicking to crawling to walking as it is for the scientist with 
his equations. 

If the environment permits it, anyone can learn whatever 
he chooses to learn; and if the individual permits it, the environ- 
ment will teach him everything it has to teach. "Talent" or "lack 
of talent" have little to do with it. 

We must reconsider what is meant by "talent." It is highly 
possible that what is called talented behavior is simply a greater 
individual capacity for experiencing. From this point of view, 
it is in the increasing of the individual capacity for experiencing 
that the untold potentiality of a personality can be evoked. 

Experiencing is penetration into the environment, total or- 
ganic involvement with it. This means involvement on all levels: 
intellectual, physical, and intuitive. Of the three, the intuitive, 
most vital to the learning situation, is neglected. 

Intuition is often thought to be an endowment or a mystical 
force enjoyed by the gifted alone. Yet all of us have known 
moments when the right answer "just came" or we did "exactly 
the right thing without thinking." Sometimes at such moments, 
usually precipitated by crises, danger, or shock, the "average" 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

person has been known to transcend the limitation of the familiar, 
courageously enter the area of the unknown, and release momen- 
tary genius within himself. When response to experience takes 
place at this intuitive level, when a person functions beyond a 
constructed intellectual plane, he is truly open for learning. 

The intuitive can only respond in immediacy right now. It 
comes bearing its gifts in the moment of spontaneity, the moment 
when we are freed to relate and act, involving ourselves in the 
moving, changing world around us. 

Through spontaneity we are re-formed into ourselves. It 
creates an explosion that for the moment frees us from handed- 
down frames of reference, memory choked with old facts and 
information and undigested theories and techniques of other 
people's findings. Spontaneity is the moment of personal freedom 
when we are faced with a reality and see it, explore it and act 
accordingly. In this reality the bits and pieces of ourselves func- 
tion as an organic whole. It is the time of discovery, of experienc- 
ing, of creative expression. 

^Acting can be taught to the "average" as well as the "talented" 
if the teaching process is oriented towards making the theater 
techniques so intuitive that they become the students' own. A 
way is needed to get to intuitive knowledge. It requires an en- 
vironment in which experiencing can take place, a person free to 
experience, and an activity that brings about spontaneity. 

The full text is a charted course of such activity. The present 
chapter attempts to help both teacher and student find personal 
freedom so far as the theater is concerned. Chapter II is intended 
to show the teacher how to establish an environment in which 
the intuitive can emerge and experiencing take place: then 
teacher and student can embark together upon an inspiring, crea- 
tive experience. 

Seven Aspects of Spontaneity 
Games 

The game is a natural group form providing the involvement 
and personal freedom necessary for experiencing. Games develop 
personal techniques and skills necessary for the game itself, 
through playing. Skills are developed at the very moment a 
person is having all the fun and excitement playing a game has 



Creative Experience 

to offer this is the exact time he is truly open to receive them. 

Ingenuity and inventiveness appear to meet any crises the 
game presents, for it is understood during playing that a player is 
free to reach the game's objective in any style he chooses. As 
long as he abides by the rules of the game, he may swing, stand 
on his head, or fly through the air. In fact, any unusual or extraor- 
dinary way of playing is loved and applauded by his fellow 
players. 

This makes the form useful not only in formal theater but 
especially so for actors interested in learning scene improvisation, 
and it is equally valuable in exposing newcomers to the theater 
experience, whether adult or child. All the techniques, conven- 
tions, etc. that the student-actors have come to find are given 
to them through playing theater games ( acting exercises ) . 

Playing a game is psychologically different in degree but not in kind 
from dramatic acting. The ability to create a situation imaginatively 
and to play a role in it is a tremendous experience, a sort of vacation 
from one's everyday self and the routine of everyday living. We 
observe that this psychological freedom creates a condition in which 
strain and conflict are dissolved and potentialities are released in the 
spontaneous effort to meet the demands of the situation. 1 

Any game worth playing is highly social and has a problem 
that needs solving within it an objective point in which each 
individual must become involved, whether it be to reach a goal 
or to flip a chip into a glass. There must be group agreement on 
the rules of the game and group interaction moving towards the 
objective if the game is to be played. 

Players grow agile and alert, ready and eager for any unusual 
play as they respond to the many random happenings simul- 
taneously. The personal capacity to involve one's self in the prob- 
lem of the game and the effort put forth to handle the multiple 
stimuli the game provokes determine the extent of this growth. 

Growth will occur without difficulty in the student-actor be- 
cause the very game he plays will aid him. The objective upon 
which the player must constantly focus and towards which every 
action must be directed provokes spontaneity. In this spontaneity, 



1 Neva L. Boyd, Play, a Unique Discipline. 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

personal freedom is released, and the total person, physically, 
intellectually, and intuitively, is awakened. This causes enough 
excitation for the student to transcend himself he is freed to go 
out into the environment, to explore, adventure, and face all 
dangers he meets unafraid. 

The energy released to solve the problem, being restricted 
by the rules of the game and bound by group decision, creates 
an explosion or spontaneity and as is the nature of explosions, 
everything is torn apart, rearranged, unblocked. The ear alerts the 
feet, and the eye throws the ball. 

Every part of the person functions together as a working unit, 
one small organic whole within the larger organic whole of the 
agreed environment which is the game structure. Out of this 
integrated experience, then, a total self in a total environment, 
comes a support and thus trust which allows the individual to 
open up and develop any skills that may be needed for the com- 
munication within the game. Furthermore, the acceptance of 
all the imposed limitations creates the playing, out of which the 
game appears, or as in the theater, the scene. 

With no outside authority imposing itself upon the players, 
telling them what to do, when to do it, and how to do it, each 
player freely chooses self-discipline by accepting the rules of the 
game ("it's more fun that way") and enters into the group deci- 
sions with enthusiasm and trust. With no one to please or ap- 
pease, the player can then focus full energy directly on the prob- 
lem and learn what he has come to learn. 

Approval/Disapproval 

The first step towards playing is feeling personal freedom. 
Before we can play (experience), we must be free to do so. It is 
necessary to become part of the world around us and make it 
real by touching it, seeing it, feeling it, tasting it, and smelling it- 
direct contact with the environment is what we seek. It must be 
investigated, questioned, accepted or rejected. The personal free- 
dom to do so leads us to experiencing and thus to self-awareness 
(self -identity) and self-expression. The hunger for self -identity 
and self-expression, while basic to all of us, is also necessary for 
the theater expression. 

Very few of us are able to make this direct contact with our 



Creative Experience 

reality. Our simplest move out into the environment is interrupted 
by our need for favorable comment or interpretation by estab- 
lished auhority. We either fear that we will not get approval, or 
we accept outside comment and interpretation unquestionably. In 
a culture where approval/disapproval has become the predomi- 
nant regulator of effort and position, and often the substitute for 
love, our personal freedoms are dissipated. 

Abandoned to the whims of others, we must wander daily 
through the wish to be loved and the fear of rejection before we 
can be productive. Categorized "good" or "bad" from birth (a 
"good" baby does not cry too much) we become so enmeshed 
with the tenuous treads of approval/disapproval that we are cre- 
atively paralyzed. We see with others' eyes and smell with others' . 
noses. 

Having thus to look to others to tell us where we are, who we 
are, and what is happening results in a serious (almost total) loss 
of personal experiencing. We lose the ability to be organically in- 
volved in a problem, and in a disconnected way, we function with 
only parts of our total selves. We do not know our own substance, 
and in the attempt to live through (or avoid living through) the 
eyes of others, self-identity is obscured, our bodies become mis- 
shapened, natural grace is gone, and learning is affected. Both 
the individual and the art form are distorted and deprived, and 
insight is lost to us. 

Trying to save ourselves from attack, we build a mighty fort- 
ress and are timid, or we fight each time we venture forth. Some 
in striving with approval/disapproval develop egocentricity and 
exhibitionism; some give up and simply go along. Others, like 
Elsa in the fairy tale, are forever knocking on windows, jingling 
their chain of bells, and wailing, "Who am I?" In all cases, con- 
tact with the environment is distorted. Self-discovery and other 
exploratory traits tend to become atrophied. Trying to be "good" 
and avoiding "bad" or being "bad" because one can't be "good" 
develops into a way of life for those needing approval/disapproval 
from authorityand the investigation and solving of problems 
becomes of secondary importance. 

Approval/disapproval grows out of authoritarianism that has 
changed its face over the years from that of the parent to the 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

teacher and ultimately the whole social structure (mate, em- 
ployer, family, neighbors, etc. ) . 

The language and attitudes of authoritarianism must be con- 
stantly scourged if the total personality is to emerge as a working 
unit. All words which shut doors, have emotional content or im- 
plication, attack the student-actor's personality, or keep a student 
slavishly dependent on a teacher's judgment are to be avoided. 
Since most of us were brought up by the approval/disapproval 
method, constant self-surveillance is necessary on the part of the 
teacher-director to eradicate it in himself so that it will not enter 
the teacher-student relationship. 

The expectancy of judgment prevents free relationships 
within the acting workshops. Moreover, the teacher cannot truly 
judge good or bad for another, for there is no absolutely right or 
wrong way to solve a problem: a teacher of wide past experience 
may know a hundred ways to solve a particular problem, and a 
student may turn up with the hundred and first! 2 This is particu- 
larly true in the arts. 

Judging on the part of the teacher-director limits his own ex- 
periencing as well as the students', for in judging, he keeps him- 
self from a fresh moment of experience and rarely goes beyond 
what he already knows. This limits him to the use of rote-teach- 
ing, of formulas or other standard concepts which prescribe stu- 
dent behavior. 

Authoritarianism is more difficult to recognize in approval 
than in disapproval particularly when a student begs for ap- 
proval. It gives him a sense of himself, for a teacher's approval 
usually indicates progress has been made, but it remains progress 
in the teacher's terms, not his own. In wishing to avoid approving 
therefore, we must be careful not to detach ourselves in such a 
way that the student feels lost, feels that he is learning nothing, 
etc. 

True personal freedom and self-expression can flower only in 
an atmosphere where attitudes permit equality between student 
and teacher and the dependencies of teacher for student and stu- 
dent for teacher are done away with. The problems within the 
subject matter will teach both of them. 



2 See Evaluation, Chapter XIV. 



Creative Experience 

Accepting simultaneously a student's right to equality in ap- 
proaching a problem and his lack of experience puts a burden on 
the teacher. This way of teaching at first seems more difficult, for 
the teacher must often sit out the discoveries of the student with- 
out interpreting or forcing conclusions on him. Yet it can be more 
rewarding for the teacher, because when student-actors have 
truly learned through playing, the quality of performance will be 
high indeed! 

The problem-solving games and exercises in this handbook 
will help clear the air of authoritarianism, and as the training 
continues, it should disappear. With an awakening sense of self, 
authoritarianism drops away. There is no need for the "status" 
given by approval/disapproval as all (teacher as well as student) 
struggle for personal insightswith intuitive awareness comes a 
feeling of certainty. 

The shift away from the teacher as absolute authority does not 
always take place immediately. Attitudes are years in building, 
and all of us are afraid to let go of them. Never losing sight of 
the fact that the needs of the theater are the real master, the 
teacher will find his cue, for the teacher too should accept the 
rules of the game. Then he will easily find his role as guide; for 
after all, the teacher-director knows the theater technically and 
artistically, and his experiences are needed in leading the group. 

Group Expression 

A healthy group relationship demands a number of individu- 
als working interdependently to complete a given project with 
full individual participation and personal contribution. If one per- 
son dominates, the other members have little growth or pleasure 
in the activity; a true group relationship does not exist. 

Theater is an artistic group relationship demanding the talents 
and energy of many people from the first thought of a play or 
scene to the last echo of applause. Without this interaction there 
is no place for the single actor, for without group functioning, 
who would he play for, what materials would he use, and what ef- 
fects could he produce? A student-actor must learn that "how 
to act," like the game, is inextricably bound up with every other 
person in the complexity of the art form. Improvisational theater 
requires very close group relationships because it is from group 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

agreement and group playing that material evolves for scenes and 
plays. 

For the student first entering the theater experience, working 
closely with a group gives him a great security on one hand and 
becomes a threat on the other. Since participation in a theater 
activity is confused by many with exhibitionism (and therefore 
with the fear of exposure), the individual fancies himself one 
against many. He must single-handedly brave a large number of 
"malevolent-eyed" people sitting in judgment. The student, then, 
bent on proving himself, is constantly watching and judging him- 
self and moves nowhere. 

When working with a group, however, playing and experienc- 
ing things together, the student-actor integrates and finds himself 
within the whole activity. The differences as well as the similar- 
ities within the group are accepted. A group should never be used 
to induce conformity but, as in a game, should be a spur to action. 

The cue for the teacher-director is basically simple: he must 
see that each student is participating freely at every moment. The 
challenge to the teacher or leader is to activize each student in 
the group while respecting each one's immediate capacity for 
participation. Though the gifted student will always seem to have 
more to give, yet if a student is participating to the limit of his 
powers and using his abilities to their fullest extent, he must be 
respected for so doing, no matter how minute his contribution. 
The student cannot always do what the teacher thinks he should 
do, but as he progresses, his capacities will enlarge. Work with 
the student where he is, not where you think he should be. 

Group participation and agreement remove all the imposed 
tensions and exhaustions of the competitiveness and open the 
way for harmony. A highly competitive atmosphere creates arti- 
ficial tensions, and when competition replaces participation, com- 
pulsive action is the result. Sharp competition connotes to even 
the youngest the idea that he has to be better than someone else. 
When a player feels this, his energy is spent on this alone; he be- 
comes anxious and driven, and his fellow players become a threat 
to him. Should competition be mistaken for a teaching tool, the 
whole meaning of playing and games is distorted. Playing allows 
a person to respond with his "total organism within a total envir- 
onment." Imposed competition makes this harmony impossible; 

10 



Creative Experience 

for it destroys the basic nature of playing by occluding self -iden- 
tity and by separating player from player. 

When competition and comparisons run high within an ac- 
tivity, there is an immediate effect on the student which is patent 
in his behavior. He fights for status by tearing another person 
down, develops defensive attitudes ( giving detailed "reasons" for 
the simplest action, bragging, or blaming others for what he does ) 
by aggressively taking over, or by signs of restlessness. Those who 
find it impossible to cope with imposed tension turn to apathy 
and boredom for release. Almost all show signs of fatigue. 

Natural competition, on the other hand, is an organic part of 
every group activity and gives both tension and release in such 
a way as to keep the player intact while playing. It is the growing 
excitement as each problem is solved and more challenging ones 
appear. Fellow players are needed and welcomed. It can become 
a process for greater penetration into the environment. 

With mastery of each and every problem we move out into 
larger vistas, for once a problem is solved, it dissolves like cotton 
candy. When we master crawling, we stand, and when we stand, 
we walk. This everlasting appearing and dissolving of phenomena 
develops a greater and greater sight (perceiving) in us with each 
new set of circumstances. (See all transformation exercises.) 

If we are to keep playing, then, natural competition must 
exist wherein each individual strives to solve consecutively more 
complicated problems. These can be solved then, not at the ex- 
pense of another person and not with the terrible personal emo- 
tional loss that comes with compulsive behavior, but by working 
harmoniously together with others to enhance the group effort or 
project. It is only when the scale of values has taken competition 
as the battle cry that danger ensues: the end-resultsuccessbe- 
comes more important than process. 

The use of energy in excess of a problem is very evident today. 
While it is true that some people working on compulsive energies 
do make successes, they have for the most part lost sight of the 
pleasure in the activity and are dissatisfied with their achieve- 
ment. It stands to reason that if we direct all our efforts towards 
reaching a goal, we stand in grave danger of losing everything on 
which we have based our daily activities. For when a goal is su- 

11 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

perimposed on an activity instead of evolving out of it, we often 
feel cheated when we reach it. 

When the goal appears easily and naturally and comes from 
growth rather than forcing the end-result, performance or what- 
ever, will be no different from the process that achieved the re- 
sult. If we are trained only for success, then to gain it we must 
necessarily use everyone and everything for this end; we may 
cheat, lie, crawl, betray, or give up all social life to achieve suc- 
cess. How much more certain would knowledge be if it came 
from and out of the excitement of learning itself. How many 
human values will be lost and how much will our art forms be 
deprived if we seek only success? 

Therefore, in diverting competitiveness to group endeavor, 
remembering that process comes before end-result, we free the 
student-actor to trust the scheme and help him to solve the prob- 
lems of the activity. Both the gifted student who would have suc- 
cess even under high tensions and the student who has little 
chance to succeed under pressure show a great creative release 
and the artistic standards within the workshop rise higher when 
free, healthy energy moves unfettered into the theater activity. 
Since the acting probems are cumulative, all are deepened and 
enriched by each successive experience. 

Audience 

The role of the audience must become a concrete part of 
theater training. For the most part, it is sadly ignored. Time and 
thought are given to the place of the actor, set designer, director, 
technician, house manager, etc., but the large group without 
whom their efforts would be for nothing is rarely given the least 
consideration. The audience is regarded either as a cluster of 
Peeping Toms to be tolerated by actors and directors or as a 
many-headed monster sitting in judgment. 

The phrase "forget the audience" is a mechanism used by 
many directors as a means of helping the student-actor to relax 
on stage. But this attitude probably created the fourth wall. 
The actor must no more forget his audience than his lines, his 
props, or his fellow actors! 

The audience is the most revered member of the theater. 
Without an audience there is no theater. Every technique learned 

12 



Creative Experience 

by the actor, every curtain and flat on the stage, every careful 
analysis by the director, every coordinated scene, is for the en- 
joyment of the audience. They are our guests, our evaluators, 
and the last spoke in the wheel which can then begin to roll. 
They make the performance meaningful. 

When there is understanding of the role of the audience, com- 
plete release and freedom come to the player. Exhibitionism 
withers away when the student-actor begins to see members of 
the audience not as judges or censors or even as delighted friends 
but as a group with whom he is sharing an experience. When the 
audience is understood to be an organic part of the theater ex- 
perience, the student-actor is immediately given a host's sense of 
responsibility toward them which has in it no nervous tension. 
The fourth wall disappears, and the lonely looker-in becomes part 
of the game, part of the experience, and is welcome! This rela- 
tionship cannot be instilled at dress rehearsal or in a last minute 
lecture but must, like all other workshop problems, be handled 
from the very first acting workshop. 

If there is agreement that all those involved in the theater 
should have personal freedom to experience, this must include 
the audience each member of the audience must have a personal 
experience, not artificial stimulation, while viewing a play. If 
they are to be part of this group agreement, they cannot be 
thought of as a single mass to be pulled hither and yon by the 
nose, nor should they have to live someone else's life story (even 
for one hour) nor identify with the actors and play out tired, 
handed-down emotions through them. They are separate indi- 
viduals watching the skills of players ( and playwrights ) , and it 
is for each and every one of them that the players (and play- 
wrights) must use these skills to create the magical world of a 
theater reality. This should be a world where every human pre- 
dicament, riddle, or vision can be explored, a world of magic 
where rabbits can be pulled out of a hat when needed and the 
devil himself can be conjured up and talked to. 

The problems of present-day theater are only now being for- 
mulated into questions. When our theater training can enable the 
future playwrights, directors, and actors to think through the role 
of the audience as individuals and as part of the process called 
theater, each one with a right to a thoughtful and personal ex- 

13 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

perience, is it not possible that a whole new form of theater pres- 
entation will emerge? Already fine professional improvising 
theaters have evolved directly from this way of working, delight- 
ing audiences night after night with fresh theatrical experiences. 3 

Theater Techniques 

Theater techniques are far from sacred. Styles in theater 

change radically with the passing of years, for the techniques of 

the theater are the techniques of communicating. The actuality of 

* the communication is far more important than the method used. 

Methods alter to meet the needs of time and place. 

When a theater technique or stage convention is regarded as 
a ritual and the reason for its inclusion in the list of actors' skills 
is lost, it is useless. An artificial barrier is set up when techniques 
are separated from direct experiencing. No one separates batting 
a ball from the game itself. 

Techniques are not mechanical devices a neat little bag of 
tricks, each neatly labeled, to be pulled out by the actor when 
necessary. When the form of an art becomes static, these isolated 
"techniques" presumed to make the form are taught and adhered 
to strictly. Growth of both individual and form suffer thereby, 
for unless the student is unusually intuitive, such rigidity in teach- 
ing, because it neglects Inner development, is invariably re- 
flected in his performance, 

When the actor knows "in his bones" there are many ways to 
do and say one thing, techniques will come (as they must) from 
his total self. For it is by direct, dynamic awareness of an acting 
experience that experiencing and techniques are spontaneously 
wedded, freeing the student for the flowing, endless pattern of 
stage behavior. Theater games do this. 

Carrying The Learning Process Into Daily Life 

The artist must always know where he is, perceive and open 
himself to receive the phenomenal world if he is to create reality 
on stage. Since theater training does not have its practice hours 
in the home (it is strongly recommended that no scripts be taken 
home to memorize, even when rehearsing a formal play), what 



3 The Second City, Chicago, and its followers. 
14 



Creative Experience 

we seek must be brought to the student-actor within the work- 
shop. 4 This must be done in such a way that he absorbs it, and 
carries it out again (inside himself) to his daily living. 

Because of the nature of the acting problems, it is imperative 
to sharpen one's whole sensory equipment, shake loose and free 
one's self of all preconceptions, interpretations, and assumptions 
(if one is to solve the problem) so as to be able to make direct and 
fresh contact with the created environment and the objects and 
the people within it. When this is learned inside the theater 
world, it simultaneously produces recognition, direct and fresh 
contact with the outside world as well. This, then, broadens the 
student-actor's ability to involve himself with his own phenom- 
enal world and more personally to experience it. Thus experienc- 
ing is the only actual homework and, once begun, like ripples on 
water is endless and penetrating in its variations. 

When the student sees people and the way they behave when 
together, sees the color of the sky, hears the sounds in the air, feels 
the ground beneath him and the wind on his face, he gets a wider 
view of his personal world and his development as an actor is 
quickened. The world provides the material for the theater, and 
artistic growth develops hand in hand with one's recognition of 
it and himself within it. 

Physicalization 

The term "physicalization" as used in this book describes the 
means by which material is presented to the student on a physi- 
cal, non-verbal level as opposed to an intellectual or psychological 
approach. "Physicalization" provides the student with a personal 
concrete experience (which he can grasp) on which his further 
development depends; and it gives the teacher and student a 
working vocabulary necessary to an objective relationship. 

Our first concern with students is to encourage freedom of 
physical expression, because the physical and sensory relation- 
ship with the art form opens the door for insight. Why this is so 
is hard to say, but be certain that it is so. It keeps the actor in an 
evolving world of direct perception an open self in relation 
to the world around him. 



4 See Chapter 

15 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Reality as far as we know can only be physical, in that it is 
received and communicated through the sensory equipment. 
Through physical relationships all life springs, whether it be a 
spark of fire from a flint, the roar of the surf hitting the beach, or 
a child born of man and woman. The physical is the known, and 
through it we may find our way to the unknown, the intuitive, and 
perhaps beyond to man's spirit itself. 

In any art form we seek the experience of going beyond what 
we already know. Many of us hear the stirring of the new, and 
it is the artist who must midwife the new reality that we (the 
audience) eagerly await. It is sight into this reality that inspires 
and regenerates us. This is the role of the artist, to give sight. 
What he believes cannot be our concern, for these matters are 
of intimate nature, private to the actor and not for public view- 
ing. Nor need we be concerned with the feelings of the actor, for 
use in the theater. We should be interested only in his direct 
physical communication; his feelings are personal to him. When 
energy is absorbed in the physical object, there is no time for 
"feeling" any more than a quarterback running down the field can 
be concerned with his clothes or whether he is universally ad- 
mired. If this seems harsh, be assured that insisting upon this ob- 
jective (physical) relationship with the art form brings clearer 
sight and greater vitality to the student-actors. For the energy 
bound up in the fear of exposure is freed (and no more secretive) 
as the student intuitively comes to realize no one is peeping at his 
private life and no one cares where he buried the body. 

A player can dissect, analyze, intellectualize, or develop a 
valuable case history for his part, but if he is unable to assimilate 
it and communicate it physically, it is useless within the theater 
form. It neither frees his feet nor brings the fire of inspiration to 
the eyes of those in the audience. The theater is not a clinic, nor 
should it be a place to gather statistics. The artist must draw 
upon and express a world that is physical but that transcends 
objects more than accurate observation and information, more 
than the physical object itself, more than the eye can see. We 
must all find the tools for this expression. "Physicalization" is such 
a tool. 

When a player learns he can communicate directly to the au- 
dience only through the physical language of the stage, it alerts 

16 



Creative Experience 

his whole organism. 5 He lends himself to the scheme and lets this 
physical expression carry him wherever it will. For improvisa- 
tional theater, for instance, where few or no props, costumes, or 
set pieces are used, the player learns that a stage reality must 
have space, texture, depth, and substancein short, physical re- 
ality. It is his creating this reality out of nothing, so to speak, that 
makes it possible for him to take his first step into the beyond. 
For the formal theater where sets and props are used, dungeon 
walls are but painted canvas and treasure chests empty boxes. 
Here, too, the player can create the theater reality only by mak- 
ing it physical. Whether with prop, costume, or strong emotion 
the actor can only show us. 



5 "Direct communication" as used in this text refers to a moment of 
mutual perceiving. 



17 



II. Workshop Procedures 

A system of work suggests that, by following a plan of pro- 
cedure, we can gather enough data and experience to emerge 
with a new understanding of our medium. Those who work in 
the theater with any success have their ways for producing re- 
sults; consciously or unconsciously they have a system. In many 
highly skilled teacher-directors, this is so intuitive that they 
have no formula to give another. While this may be exciting to 
observe, it narrows the field to the naturally "gifted" teacher- 
director only, and this need not be so. How often upon viewing 
demonstrations and lectures on the theater have we thought, 
"The words are right, the principle correct, the results wonderful, 
but how can we do it?" 

All acting problems in this handbook are charted steps in a 
system of teaching which is a cumulative procedure that begins 
as simply as the realization of the first step on a path or the 
knowledge that one and one make two. A "how to do it" pro- 
cedure will become apparent with the use of the material. Yet, 
no system should be a system. We must tread carefully if we are 
not to defeat our aims. How can we have a "planned" way of ac- 
tion while trying to find a "free" way? 

The answer is clear. It is the demands of the art form itself 
that must point the way for us, shaping and regulating our work 
and reshaping all of us as well to meet the impact of this great 
force. Our constant concern then is to keep a moving, living re- 
ality for ourselves, not to labor compulsively for an end-result. 
Whenever we meet ? whether in workshops or in performance, in 

18 



Workshop Procedures 

that meeting must be the moment of process, the moment of liv- 
ing theater. If we let this happen, the techniques for teaching, 
direction, acting, developing material for scene improvisation, or 
the way to handle a formal play will come from our very core 
and appear as if by accident. 1 It is out of willingness to under- 
stand organic process that our work becomes alive. The exercises 
used and developed in this handbook grew out of this focus. For 
those of us who serve the theater and not a system of work, 
what we seek will evolve as a result of what we do to find it. 

Especially in the new and exciting development of scene im- 
provisations is this true. Only from meeting and acting upon the 
changing, moving present can improvisation be born. The ma- 
terial and substance of scene improvisation are not the work of 
any one person or any one writer but come out of the cohesion of 
player acting upon player. The quality, range, vitality, and life 
of this material is in direct ratio to the process the individual stu- 
dent is going through and what he is actually experiencing in 
spontaneity, organic growth, and intuitive response. 

This chapter attempts to clarify for the teacher-director how 
to organize material for training in the theater conventions and 
how we can all stay away from rote teaching and meet in the 
area of the yet unknown. Though many may pull away, fearful 
of leaving the familiar cage, some of us will find each other and 
together preserve the vital spirit of the theater. 

To come to this understanding, the teacher-director must keep 
a dual point of view towards himself and the student; (1) ob- 
servation of the handling of the material presented in its obvious 
or outward use as training for the stage; (2 ) constant close scru- 
tiny of whether or not the material is penetrating and reaching 
a deeper level of responsethe intuitive. 

To keep the word "intuitive" from becoming a catch-all word 
which we throw around or use for old concepts, use it to denote 
that area of knowledge which is beyond the restrictions of cul- 
ture, race, education, psychology, and age; deeper than the "sur- 
vival dress" of mannerisms, prejudices, intellectualisms, and bor- 
rowings most of us wear to live out our daily lives. Let us rather 
embrace one another in our basic humanness and strive in the 
workshops to release this humanness in ourselves and our stu- 

Natural Acting, Chapter XIII. 

19 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

dents. Here, then, the walls of our cage, prejudices, frames of 
reference, and predetermined right and wrong dissolve. We look 
with an "inward eye." In this way there will be no fear that a 
system becomes a system. 

Problem-Solving 

The problem-solving technique used in workshop gives mu- 
tual objective focus to teacher and student. In its simplest terms 
it is giving problems to solve problems. It does away with the 
need for the teacher to analyze, intellectualize, dissect a student's 
work on a personal basis. This eliminates the necessity of the 
student having to go through the teacher or the teacher having 
to go through the student to learn. It gives both of them direct 
contact with the material, thereby developing relationship rather 
than dependencies between them. It makes experiencing possible 
and smoothes the way for people of unequal backgrounds to 
work together. 

When one has to go through another to learn something, his 
learning is colored by both his and the teacher's subjective needs, 
often creating personality difficulties and the whole experience 
(view) is altered in such a way that direct experiencing is not 
possible. The approval/disapproval critique of authority becomes 
more important than the learning, and the student-actor is kept 
in old frames of reference (his own or the teacher's), behavior- 
isms and attitudes remain unchanged. Problem-solving prevents 
this. 

Problem-solving performs the same function in creating or- 
ganic unity and freedom of action as does the game and generates 
great excitement by constantly provoking the question of pro- 
cedures at the moment of crisis, thus keeping all participating 
members open for experiencing. 

Since there is no right or wrong way to solve a problem, and 
since the answer to every problem is prefigured in the problem 
itself (and must be to be a true problem), continuous work on 
and the solving of these problems opens everyone to their own 
source and power. How a student-actor solves a problem is per- 
sonal to him, and, as in a game, he can run, shout, climb, or turn 
somersaults as long as he stays with the problem. All distortions 
of character and personality slowly fade away, for true self-iden- 

20 



Workshop Procedures 

tity is far more exciting than the falseness of withdrawal, egocen- 
tricity, exhibitionism, and need for social approval. 

This includes the teacher-director and group leader as well. 
He must be constantly alerted to bring in fresh acting problems 
to solve any difficulties that may come up. He becomes the diag- 
nostician, so to speak, developing his personal skills, first, in find- 
ing what the student needs or is lacking for his work and, second, 
finding the exact problem that will work for the student. For ex- 
ample: if your players cannot handle more than four on stage at 
one time, and all talk at once creating cluttered stage picture 
and general confusion, presenting the exercise named TWO SCENES 
will clear this up for everybody. Once the problem in TWO 
SCENES is solved, it can only result in the students* organically 
understanding some of the problems of blocking. From then on, 
all the teacher-director needs to do (should the difficulty arise 
again) is to side-coach "TWO SCENES!" for the players to under- 
stand and act accordingly. 2 

And so with all the other exercises. Problems to solve prob- 
lems, voice projection, characterization, stage business, develop- 
ing material for scene improvisation all are manageable through 
this way of working. Dogmatism is avoided by not giving lec- 
tures on acting; language is used for the purpose of clarification 
of the problem. This can be considered a non-verbal system of 
teaching insofar as the student gathers his own data within a 
first-hand experience. This mutual involvement with the problem 
instead of each other frees the air of personalities, judgment 
values, recriminations, fawning, etc. and is replaced by trust and 
relationship making artistic detachment a strong probability. 

This is the challenge for all members of the workshop. Each 
from his own point of view mutually focused on the problems at 
hand. In time the last vestiges of authoritarianism leave as all 
work to solve the problems of the theater. When the youngest 
actors are told that they will never be asked a question that they 
cannot answer or given a problem they cannot solve, they can 
well believe it. 

The Point of Concentration 

The Point of Concentration releases group power and indi- 



2 See TWO SCENES, p. 160. 

21 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

vidual genius. Through Point of Concentration, theater, the most 
complicated of art forms can be taught to the young, the new- 
comers, the old, to plumbers, school-teachers, physicists, and 
housewives. It frees them all to enter into an exciting creative 
adventure, and thus it makes theater meaningful in the com- 
munity, the neighborhood, the home. 

The Point of Concentration is the focal point for the system 
covered in this handbook, and it does the work for the student. 
It is the "ball" with which all play the game. While its uses may 
be manifold, the four following points help clarify it for use in 
workshops. (1) It helps to isolate segments of complex and 
overlapping theater techniques (necessary to performance) so 
as to thoroughly explore them. (2) It gives the control, the 
artistic discipline in improvisation, where otherwise unchanneled 
creativity might become a destructive rather than a stabilizing 
force. (3) It provides the student with a focus on a changing, 
moving single point ("Keep your eye on the ball") within the 
acting problem, and this develops his capacity for involvement 
with the problem and relationship with his fellow players in 
solving it. Both are necessary to scene improvisation. It acts 
as a catalyst between player and player and between player 
and problem. (4) This singleness of focus on a moving point 
used in solving the problem whether it be the very first session 
where he counts the boards or chairs (EXPOSURE) or later, more 
complicated onesfrees the student for spontaneous action and 
provides the vehicle for an organic rather than a cerebral ex- 
perience. It makes perceiving rather than preconception possible 
and acts as a springboard into the intuitive. 

(1) Presenting material in a segmented way frees a player 
for action at every stage of his development. It sorts theater 
experience into such minute (simple and familiar) bits of itself 
that each detail is easily recognizable and does not overwhelm 
or frighten anyone away. In the beginning the POC may be a 
simple handling of a cup, a rope, a door. It becomes more com- 
plex as the acting problems progress, and with it the student-actor 
will eventually be led to explore character, emotion, and com- 
plicated events. This focusing upon a detail in the over-all com- 
plexity of the art form, as in a game, gives everyone something to 
do on stage, creates playing by totally absorbing the players and 

22 



Workshop Procedures 

shutting off fear of approval/disapproval. Out of this something 
to do (playing), teaching, directing, acting, and scene improvisa- 
tion techniques arrive. As each part (detail) unfolds, it becomes 
a step towards a new integrated whole for both the individual's 
total structure and the theater structure as well. By working 
intensely with parts, the group is also working on the whole, 
which, of course, is made up of the parts. 

With each acting problem intrinsically interrelated to another, 
the teacher keeps two, three, and sometimes more guide points 
in mind simultaneously. While it is most essential that the teacher 
be aware of the part of the theater experience explored in each 
acting problem and where it fits into the whole fabric, the student 
need not be so informed. Many stage techniques may never be 
brought up as separate exercises but will develop along with 
the others. Thus rendering of character, for instance, which is 
carefully and deliberately avoided in the early training, grows 
stronger with each exercise, even though the main focus is on 
something else. 3 This avoids cerebral activity around an acting 
problem and makes it organic (unified). 

(2) The Point of Concentration acts as an additional boundary 
(rules of the game) within which the player must work and 
within which constant crises must be met. Just as the jazz musi- 
cian creates a personal discipline by staying with the beat while 
playing with other musicians, so the control in the focus provides 
the theme and unblocks the student to act upon each crisis as 
it arrives. As the student need work only on his POC, it permits 
him to direct his full sensory equipment on a single problem so 
he is not befuddled with more than one thing at a time while 
actually he is doing many. Occupied with the POC ? the student- 
actor moves unhesitatingly to anything that presents itself. He 
is caught unaware, so to speak, and functions without fear or 
resistance. Because each problem is solvable and is also a focus 
outside the student which he can see and grasp, each successive 
POC acts as a stabilizing force and soon frees everyone to "trust 
the scheme" and let go, giving themselves over to the art form. 
(3) All players, while individually working on the POC, must 
at the same time, as in a game, gather around the object (ball) 



3 See Chapter XII. 

23 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

and play together to solve the problem, acting upon the POC 
and interrelating. This makes a direct line from player to prob- 
lem (similar to the line from teacher and student to problem). 
This total individual involvement with the object (event or 
project) makes relationship with others possible. Without this 
object involvement, it would be necessary to become involved 
with one's self or one another. In making ourselves or another 
player the object (the ball), there is grave danger of reflection 
and absorption. Thus we might push each other around the field 
(the stage) and exhibit ourselves instead of playing ball. Relation- 
ship keeps individuality intact, allows breathing (room to play) 
to exist between everyone, and prevents us from using ourselves 
or each other for our subjective needs. Involving ourselves in the 
POC absorbs our subjective needs and frees us for relationship. 
This makes stage action possible and clears the stage of play- 
writing, emoting, and psycho-drama. In time, when artistic de- 
tachment is a fact, we can then make ourselves or others the 
object without misuse. 

(4) The Point of Concentration is the magical focus that pre- 
occupies and blanks the mind (the known), cleans the slate, 
and acts as a plumb-bob into our very own centers (the intui- 
tive), breaking through the walls that keep us from the unknown, 
ourselves, and each other. With singleness of focus, everyone is 
intent on observing the solving of the problem, and there is no 
split of personality. For both players and audience the gap 
between watching and participating closes up as subjectivity 
gives way to communication and becomes objectivity. Spon- 
taneity cannot come out of duality, out of being "watched" 
whether it be the player watching himself or fearful of outside 
watchers. 

This combination of individuals mutually focussing and mutu- 
ally involved creates a true relationship, a sharing of a fresh ex- 
perience. Here old frames of reference topple over as the new 
structure (growth) pushes its way upwards, allowing freedom of 
individual response and contribution. Individual energy is re- 
leased, trust is generated, inspiration and creativity appear as all 
the players play the game and solve the problem together. 
"Sparks" fly between people when this happens. 

Unfortunately, understanding the Point of Concentration as 

24 



Workshop Procedures 

an idea is not the same as letting it work for us (accepting it 
wholeheartedly). Time is needed if the principle of POC is to 
become a part of the total integration of ourselves and our work. 
While many people concede the value of using POC, it is not 
easy to restructure one's self and give up the familiar, and so 
some resist in it every way they can. Whatever the psychological 
reasons for this, it will show itself in refusal to accept group 
responsibilities, clowning, playwriting, jokes, immature evalua- 
tion, lack of spontaneity, interpretation of everyone else's work 
to meet a personal frame of reference, etc. A person with high 
resistance will try to manipulate those around him to work for 
him and his ideas alone rather than entering into the group agree- 
ment. It oftens shows itself in resentment of what is considered a 
limitation imposed by the teacher or sometimes in referring to the 
game exercises as "kid stuff." Exhibitionism and egocentricity 
continue as the student-actor ad-libs, "acts," plays "characters," 
and "emotes" rather than involving himself in the problem at 
hand. 

It is axiomatic that the student who resists working on the 
Point of Concentration will never be able to improvise and will 
be a continuous discipline problem. This is so because improvis- 
ing is openness to contact with the environment and each other 
and willingness to play. It is acting upon environment and allow- 
ing others to act upon present reality, as in playing a game. 

Sometimes resistance is hidden to the student himself and 
shows itself in a great deal of verbalization, erudition, argument, 
and questioning as to "how to do it" within the workshops. With 
skilled and clever players this is often difficult to pinpoint and 
uncover. Lack of discipline and resistance to the Point of Con- 
centration go hand in hand, for discipline can only grow out of 
total involvement with the event, object, or project. 4 

However, at no time is the student-actor to misuse the stage, 
no matter what his subjective resistance may be. A firm hand 
must be used, not to attack or impose one's will, but to main- 
tain the integrity of the art form. If students train long enough, 
they will realize this way is not a threat to them, will not destroy 
their "individuality"; for as the transcending power in keeping 



4 See Discipline Is Involvement, Chapter XIII. 

25 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

the Point of Concentration is felt by everyone and results in 
greater theatrical skills and deeper self-knowledge, their resist- 
ance will in time be overcome. 

Evaluation 

Evaluation takes place after each individual team has finished 
working on an acting problem. It is the time to establish objec- 
tive vocabulary, and direct communication made possible through 
non-judgmental attitudes, group assistance in solving a prob- 
lem, and clarification of the Point of Concentration. All the 
members of the workshop as well as the teacher-director enter 
into it. This group help in solving problems removes the burden 
of anxiety and guilt from the player. Fear of judgments (one's 
own as well as those from others) slowly leave the players as 
good/bad, right/wrong reveal themselves to be the very chains 
that bind us, and they soon disappear from everyone's vocab- 
ularly and thinking. In this loss of fear rests release; in this re- 
lease rests the abandonment of restrictive self-controls (self- 
protection) by the student. As he abandons these and lends 
himself willingly to a new experience, he trusts the scheme and 
takes a further step into the environment. 

The teacher-director must also evaluate objectively. Was con- 
centration complete or incomplete? Did .,they solve the prob- 
lem? Did they communicate or interpret? Did they show or tell? 
Did they act or react? Did they let something happen? 

Evaluation that limits itself to a personal prejudice is 
going nowhere. "Policemen don't eat celery," or "People don't 
stand on their heads in a situation like that," or "He was 
good/bad, right/ wrong" these are the walls around our garden. 
It would be better to ask: "Did he show us who he was? 
Why not? Did he stay with the problem? Whose good/bad, 
right/wrong mine, Jonathan's, or yours? Did he keep his Point 
of Concentration?" 5 

In time mutual trust makes it possible for the student to 
give himself over to the evaluation. He is able to keep a single 
purpose in mind, for he no longer needs to watch himself, and he 
becomes eager to know exactly where the problem might have 



5 See Chapter XIV. 
26 



Workshop Procedures 

gotten away from him. When he is the audience, he evaluates 
for his fellow actors; when he is the actor, he listens to and allows 
the student audience to evaluate for him, for he stands with his 
peers. 

The kind of evaluation made by the student audience is de- 
pendent upon their understanding of the Point of Concentration 
and the problem to be solved. If the student is to have a greater 
understanding of his stage work, it is most essential that the 
teacher-director does not make the evaluation himself but, rather, 
asks the questions which all answer including the teacher, Did 
they playwrite? Did he pretend or make it real? Did he move 
the object or let the object move him? Did he cry with his feet? 
Did he make contact or make assumptions? Did they solve the 
problem? 

The student audience is not to sit by and be entertained, nor 
are they to protect or attack the players. If they are to help one 
another, Evaluation must be on what was actually communicated, 
not what was "filled in" (by either the actor or the audience) and 
not any personal interpretation of how something should be done. 
This furthers the whole point of process as well, for it keeps the 
audience busy watching not a play or story but the solving of a 
problem. As the student audience come to understand their role, 
the communication lines from audience to actor as well as from 
actor to audience are strengthened. Those in the audience change 
from passive observers to active participants in the problem. 

"Assume nothing. Evaluate only what you have actually seen!" 
This keeps throwing the ball back to the players and sharpens 
their eye and their hand in finer selectivity in clarifying the stage 
reality. The student audience does not compare, compete, or 
clown; they are there to evaluate the acting problem presented 
and not a performance of a scene. Thus audience responsibility 
for the actors becomes part of the organic growth of the student. 
When a scene does evolve, it is added pleasure for all. 6 

The point of accepting a direct communication without in- 
terpretation and assumption is difficult for students to understand 
in the beginning work. It may be necessary to work hard to get 
this point across. Asking each member of the audience, "What did 



6 See Points of Observation, No. 4, in the BEGIN AND END exercise, p. 80. 

27 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

the player communicate to you?" may clarify this point. It is at 
this time that what the student-audience "thought" the player 
did or "assumed" he did out of his (the student's) frame of ref- 
erence can be identified as interpretation rather than the receiv- 
ing of a direct communication. A player on stage either com- 
municated or does not. The audience sees the book in his hand 
or does not see it. This is all we ask. The very simplicity of this 
is what confounds most students. If the player did not make a 
direct communication to the audience, the next time on stage 
he will make every effort to do so. If the student-audience did 
not receive a communication, they didn't that is all 

Sometimes members of the student audience hold back on 
Evaluation, for the following reasons: first, they do not under- 
stand the Point of Concentration and so do not know what to 
look for; second, many students confuse Evaluation with "criti- 
cism" and are reluctant to "attack" their fellow students. Once 
it is understood, however, that Evaluation is an important part 
of the process and is vital to the understanding of the problem 
for both the actor and his audience, the reticence which some 
students might feel about expressing themselves will disappear. 
Third, the teacher-director may not truly "trust the scheme" 
himself and is unknowingly squelching the students Evaluation 
by taking it over himself. The teacher-director must become the 
audience together with the student-actors in the deepest sense 
of the word for Evaluation to be meaningful. 

Side Coaching 

Side Coaching gives self-identity and acts as a guide while 
working on a problem within a group. As in a ball game, it is 
accepted by the student-actor once it is understood. It is used as 
the players are working on stage. 

It is a method used in holding the student-actor to the Point 
of Concentration whenever he may have wandered away. (Keep 
your eye on the ball!) This gives the student-actor self-identity 
within the activity and keeps him functioning at a fresh moment 
of experience, and, further, it gives the teacher-director his place 
and makes him part of the group as well. 

Side Coaching keeps the stage reality alive for the student- 
actor. It is the voice of the director seeing the needs of the over- 

28 



Workshop Procedures 

all presentation; at the same time it is the voice of the teacher 
seeing the individual actor and his needs within the group and 
on the stage. It is the teacher-director working on a problem to- 
gether with the student as part of the group effort. 

Side Coaching reaches the total organism, for it arises spon- 
taneously out of what is happening on stage and is given at the 
time a player is in action. Because it is a further method of keep- 
ing the student and teacher relating and must therefore be objec- 
tive, great care must be taken to see that it does not disintegrate 
into an approval/disapproval involvement instead a command to 
be obeyed! 

A simple, direct calling out is best. Share the stage picture! 
See the buttons on Johns coat! Share your voice with the audi- 
ence! Write with a pen, not your fingers! (When writing is done 
early in training, most players pretend by using fingers.) You 
walked through a table! Contact! See it with your feet! No play- 
writing! Such comments are worth a dozen lectures on blocking, 
projection, giving reality to stage objects, etc. For they are given 
as part of the process, and the student-actor effortlessly moves 
out of a huddled position, gives the table reality, and sees his 
fellow actor. Our voice reaches his total self, and he moves 
accordingly. 

The student who looks out inquiringly when first hearing our 
Side Coaching need only be coached Listen to my voice but 
dont pay any attention to it, or Listen to my voice but keep right 
on going. Just stay with the problem! 

Side Coaching gives the student-actor his self -identity within 
the activity because it keeps him from wandering off into isola- 
tion within his subjective world: It keeps him in present time, 
in the time of process. It keeps him aware of the group and him- 
self within the group. 7 

All acting exercises in this handbook suggest usable Side 
Coaching. 

Side Coaching is also used to end an exercise when neces- 
sary. When "One minute!" is called out, the players must solve the 
problem they are working on within an approximation of that 
time. 



7 See "Detachment/' p. 378. 

29 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Teams And Presentation Of Problem 
All the exercises are done with teams chosen at random. 
Students must learn to relate with everyone and anyone. De- 
pendencies in the smallest areas must be constantly observed and 
broken. This is related to the acting itself, for many actors be- 
come dependent upon mannerisms as well as on people and 
things. Removing crutches whenever they appear helps students 
to avoid developing these problems. This is why changing rooms, 
using circle staging as well as proscenium, and improvising in 
front of "cameras" and "microphones" are highly recommended. 
"Counting off" is a simple device accepted by all age groups 
in dividing up for teams, If the teams fall into the same groupings 
too often, then alter the method of selection (vary numbers in 
counting), so that students are never quite certain just where 
to sit in order to fall in with their friends. This counting method 
eliminates the negative exposure which the slower members of 
a group may experience if the teams are chosen by the students 
themselves (captain system or whatever). It is very painful for 
a student to sit and wait to be asked to join a team, and such 
procedures should be avoided in the beginning workshops. This 
is as true of the student-actor of fifty as it is for one eight years 
old. 

However, if there is a good deal of uneven development 
within the group in the beginning of workshops, it may be neces- 
sary to match players so as to keep everyone with as challenging 
partners as possible. Ways must be found to do this without 
pointing it up at all. 

Presenting the Problem 

The teacher-director is advised to present the acting problem 
quickly and simply. Sometimes merely writing the daily problem 
on the blackboard is enough. If explanations are necessary, do 
not try to give a long and detailed description. Simply clarify the 
Point of Concentration and cover the necessary material quickly 
as you would explain the playing of a game. Whenever feasible, 
give a demonstration with a few actors guided by you. Do not 
do this too often, however, for it may become a way of showing 
how and preventing self-discovery in the students. Do not be too 
concerned if all do not seem to "get it" immediately. Working on 

30 



Workshop Procedures 

the problem itself and the group preparation (with teacher-di- 
rector guiding when necessary) before doing the exercise will 
bring clarification to many students. If there is still confusion, 
Evaluation will make it quite clear for those who are slower to 
understand. 

Along the same line, do not tell students why they are given 
a problem. This is particularly important with young actors and 
lay actors. Such verbalized predeterminations place the student 
in a defensive position, or his Point of Concentration will be on 
giving the teacher what the teacher wants instead of working at 
the problem. Indeed, there should be no verbilization of "what 
we are trying to do" for the student personally. All language is 
to be directed to clarify the structure of the problem alone. Let 
the student-actor stay with what seem to be the simple externals 
of the problem. He will know himself in time what Neva L. Boyd 
termed "the stimulation and release that is happening to his full 
nature/' 

Physical Set-Up Of The Workshops 
Environment in Workshop Training 

"Environment" in workshop training refers to both the physi- 
cal set-up and the atmosphere existing within that set-up. Phys- 
ically, whenever possible workshop sessions should be held in a 
well-equipped theater. While "well-equipped" does not mean an 
elaborate stage, the workshop area should have at least one light- 
ing dimmer and a simple sound system (amplifier, speaker, 
phonograph, perhaps a microphone). If such a physical set-up is 
provided, then student-actors are given full opportunity to de- 
velop skills which add up to the total theater experience: acting, 
developing scene material, and creating technical effects. 

The exercises in this handbook allow for set pieces, costumes, 
sound effects, and lighting to be used spontaneously during the 
solving of the problems. The elements needed to achieve these 
effects should be readily available to your student-actors as they 
prepare their situations. Large wooden set blocks are extremely 
useful, since they can be quickly transformed into counters, 
thrones, altars, sofas, or whatever called for. A costume rack with 
specially selected costume parts should be close at hand, loaded 
with hats of all types (chef, police, medieval, clown, etc.), 

31 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

cloaks, robes, scarves, and a beard or two. The sound cornel- 
should be equipped with some gadgets for creating manual sound 
effects (cowbells, wooden sticks or blocks, tin cans, chains, 
buckets, etc. ) as well as a few sound-effects recordings such as 
autos starting, trains, sirens, wind and storms, etc. Each team 
should choose one member to act as technician and provide what- 
ever sound or lighting effects may be needed while improvising 
(see Chapter VIII). 

While it is true that improvisational theaters, for the most 
part, use few or no real props or set pieces, the actor who is 
training specifically for this form should handle real props as 
suggested by some of the exercises in the text. Learning to use 
sets, costumes, lights, etc. with no more time for planning than 
the actors have for structuring their scenes is simply a way of 
stirring up action in another area of the theater another road to 
the intuitive. 

The atmosphere during the workshop session should always 
be one of pleasure and relaxation. Student-actors are supposed to 
absorb not only the techniques they gain from the workshop ex- 
perience but also the accompanying moods. 

Preparation For the Acting Problem 

The student-actors should make their own decisions and set 
up their own physical world around the problems given them. 
This is one of the keys to this work. The players create their 
own theater reality and become masters of their "fate," so to 
speak ( at least for fifteen minutes ) . 

Once the teacher-director or group leader has introduced the 
acting problem, he retires to and becomes part of the group. As 
such, he should move around from group to group during the 
early workshop sessions, clarifying the problem and pro- 
cedure wherever necessary, helping individual members to group 
agreement. 

In Orientation, for example, even the simplest group decision 
on such things as group listening (p. 55) will be hard to come 
by. Individuals on the team will toss ideas back and forth. Some 
will try to tell everyone "Tiow to do it." Moving from team to 
team, the teacher-director will be able to help them to come to 
group agreement. 

32 



Workshop Procedures 

This time may also be used to clarify any misunderstandings 
about the problem. In the first workshop, for instance, many will 
ask, "How do I show listening?" The teacher should not allow 
anyone to show them, and he remains noncommittal himself; for 
everyone physicalizes "listening" through his own individual 
structure, and there should be no chance for imitation. Encourage 
them to "just listen." They will soon discover that they already 
know how to "listen" (or "see" or "taste"). 

The simple group agreement of the first exercise will open the 
way to far more complicated situations in later exercises. If the 
groundwork is carefully laid, agreement on later problems such 
as place (Where), character (Who), and problem (What) -will 
come more easily with each successive exercise. 

Again, for those interested in the development of scene impro- 
visation, this is the only way of working. Because of the nature of 
this art form, the finding of and use of material for scenes must 
evolve out of the group itself, during the process of solving a 
problem along with every other technique the student-actors are 
developing, 

Timing 

An acting problem must be ended when the action has 
stopped and the players are simply ad-libbing, making jokes, etc. 
This is the result of not working on the problem or not playing 
with one another. Side-coaching "One minute!" will let students 
know they must finish their scene or end their problem. This 
sometimes accelerates action, and the scene may continue for a 
while. When this does not happen, it is sometimes necessary to 
then call, "Half-minute!" and sometimes it may be necessary to 
stop the improvisation immediately. 

In the early work inform students that when "One minute!" 
is called, they must try to solve the problem they are working on 
within that time. This, then, revives the POC for them and usu- 
ally accelerates the scene simultaneously, which becomes an ex- 
cellent point to bring up in Evaluation. When players are work- 
ing on the POC, "One minute!" rarely has to be called. Interest 
as to what is happening on the stage remains high, as in playing 
a game. 

Calling "One minute!" develops an intuitive sense of pace 

33 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

and timing in players. For this reason it is sometimes useful to 
allow the student audience or chosen members of it to call time. 
When this is done, group evaluation on this point should be made. 
As a group develops this time sense, "One minute!" need rarely 
be called, for the players bring their scenes to their natural 
endings. 

Timing is perceiving (sensing); it is an organic response 
which cannot be taught by lecture. It is the ability to handle the 
multiple stimuli occurring within a setting. It is the host attuned 
to the individual needs of his many guests. It is the cook putting 
a dash of this and a flick of that into a stew. It is children playing 
a game, alerted to each other and to the environment around 
them. It is to know objective reality and to be free to respond 
to it 

Labels 

The acting workshop is concerned with relationships, not in- 
formation. And so, the teacher-director must avoid using labels 
in early sessions. Keep away from technical terms such as "block- 
ing," "projection," etc. Instead, substitute phrases such as "share 
the stage picture/* "share your voice/' etc. Far from eliminating 
analytical thought, the avoiding of labels will free it for it allows 
analytical thought, the avoiding of labels allows the player "to 
share" in his own unique way; for imposing a label before its 
organic meaning is fully understood prevents direct experiencing, 
and there are no data to analyze. For instance, only when "share 
your voice" is understood by the actor organically and dynam- 
ically after months of use as his responsibility to his audience, 
(making them part of the game) should the term "projection" be 
introduced to him. A label is static and prevents process. 

In some cases, the workshop will contain student-actors with 
previous theater experience who will initially use the conven- 
tional stage technology. However, these terms will gradually dis- 
appear as the teacher-director establishes the general vocabulary 
to be used throughout training. Because the whole workshop 
system is based on self discovery, the undesirability of labels 
should be very clear in the teacher-director's mind at the outset. 

Avoiding The How 

It must be clear in everybody's mind from the very first 

34 



Workshop Procedures 

workshop session that How a problem is solved must grow out 
of the stage relationships, as in a game. It must happen at the 
actual moment of stage life (Right now!) and not through any 
pre-planning. Pre-planning how to do something throws the 
players into "performance" and/or playwriting, making the de- 
velopment of improvisers impossible and preventing the player 
in the formal theater from spontaneous stage behavior. 

In almost every case a student new in the theater workshops 
thinks he is expected to perform. Somtimes the group leader 
himself is confused on this point and mistakes "performance" for 
growth (although in some cases this can be true). With new 
students pre-planning results in awkwardness and fear; with the 
skilled, it continues their old patterns of work. In either case 
very little is learned, for at best whatever comes to the student 
must be but a trickle struggling its way through old frames of 
reference and set attitudes. 

Performance is confused with learning, end result with proc- 
ess. No matter to what extent the need for spontaneity and the 
taboo of the planned How are stressed, it is a very difficult point 
to grasp and will require constant clarification for everyone. 
However, when everyone understands that How kills spontaneity 
and prevents new and untried experiences, they will avoid con- 
scious repetition of old actions and dialogue and trite ideas, either 
"borrowed" from the current TV show or from old plays they 
themselves have been in. 

Direct communication prevents How. This is why in Evalua- 
tion each individual audience member is asked to open himself 
for this communication. The player makes the communication or 
does not, the audience sees it or does not. This, then, continues 
to clear up the whole problem of How; for a member of the 
audience cannot then decide How in his terms (interpretation) 
the player should have made the communication. 

Pre-planning How constitutes the use of old material even if 
that material is but five minutes old. Pre-planned work on stage 
is the result of a rehearsal even if that rehearsal was but a few 
seconds of mental visualization. Any group of student-actors 
laughingly give up their hold on How when they realize that 
if they want to rehearse and perform they should be with a group 
doing a show instead of a workshop. For the unskilled, whose 

35 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

"rehearsal" can at best bring only anxious "performance/' a great 
sense of relief is evident when they realize all they have to do is 
play the game. 

Real performance, however, opens players up for deeper ex- 
periences. When this moment arrives, it is apparent to everyone. 
It is the moment of the total organism working at its fullest capac- 
ityright now! Like a flash fire, real performance is all-consum- 
ing, burning away all the subjective needs of the player and creat- 
ing a moment of great excitement throughout the theater. When 
this occurs, spontaneous applause will come from the workshop 
members. 

Pre-planning is necessary only to the extent that the problems 
should have a structure. The structure is the Where, "Who, and 
What plus the POC, It is the field upon which the game is played 
that is pre-planned, How the game will go can be known only 
when the players are out on the field. 

Reminders And Pointers 

The following list of reminders and pointers for both teacher 
(or group leader) and student rightfully should be weighed after 
the exercises have been used. However, a quick glance at them 
now will alert everyone, and the list should be reviewed while a 
group is working through the exercises. 

1. Do not rush student-actors. Some students particularly 
need to feel unhurried. When necessary, quietly coach. "Take 
your time." "We all have lots of time." "We are with you." 

2. Interpretation and assumption keep the player from direct 
communication. This is why we say show, don't tell. Telling is 
verbally or in some other indirect way indicating what one is 
doing. This then puts the work upon the audience or the fellow 
actor, and the student learns nothing. Showing means direct 
contact and direct communication. It does not mean passively 
pointing to something. 

3. Note that many exercises have subtle variations. This is 
important, and they should be understood, for each variation is 
solving a very different problem for the student. Each teacher- 
director will find that he will make many of his own additions as 
he goes through the work. 

4. Repeat problems at different points in the work, to see 

36 



Workshop Procedures 

how student-actors handle early work differently. Also, this is 
important when relationships with the environment become fuzzy 
and detail is lost. 

5. How we do something is the process of doing (right now! ) . 
Pre-planning How makes process impossible and so becomes 
resistance to the Point of Concentration, and no "explosion" or 
spontaneity can take place, making any change or alterations in 
the student-actor impossible. True improvisation re-shapes and 
alters the student-actor through the act of improvising itself. 
Penetration into the POC, direct contact, and relationship with 
fellow players result in a change, alteration, or new understanding 
for one or the other or both. In time, during the solving of the 
acting problem the student becomes aware that he is acted upon 
and is acting, thereby creating process and change within his 
stage life. This insight gained remains with him in his everyday 
life, for whenever a circuit is opened for anyone, so to speak, it is 
usable everywhere. 

6. Without exception, all exercises are over the moment the 
problem is solved. This may happen in one minute or in twenty, 
depending on the growing skills of students in "playing." The 
solving of the problem is the scene's life force. Continuing a 
scene after problem is solved becomes story instead of process. 

7. Try always to keep an environment in the workshop where 
each can find his own nature (including the teacher or group 
leader) without imposition. Growth is natural to everyone. Be 
certain that no one is blocked off in the workshops by an inflexible 
method of treatment. 

8. A group of individuals who act, agree, and share together 
create strength and release knowledge surpassing the contribu- 
tion of any single member. This includes the teacher and group 
leader. 

9. It is the energy released in solving the problem which 
forms the scene. 

10. If during workshop sessions students become restless and 
static in their work, it is a danger sign. Refreshment and a new 
focus is needed. End the problem immediately and use some 
simple warm-up (object) exercise or game. Skip around the 
handbook and use anything that will keep up the vitality level 
of the group. Just be careful not to use any advanced exercises 

37 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

until the group is ready for them. Be certain that Orientation and 
Where exercises are given students in the beginning work, how- 
ever. This is as true for the professional company as it is for the 
lay actor and newcomer to the theater. 

11. Become familiar with the many game books useful in 
this work. 

12. Remember that a lecture will never accomplish what an 
experience will for student-actors. 

13. Be flexible. Alter your plans on a moment's notice if it 
is advisable to do so, for when the foundation upon which this 
work is based is understood and the teacher knows his role, he 
can invent many of his own exercises and find games to meet an 
immediate problem. 

14. Just as the teacher-director watches his students for rest- 
lessness and fatigue, so he must watch himself. If following work- 
shop he finds himself drained and exhausted, he must go care- 
fully over his work and see what he is doing to create this prob- 
lem. A fresh experience can only create refreshment. 

15. While a team is working on stage, the teacher-director 
must observe audience reaction as well as the players' work. The 
audience (including himself) should be checked for interest 
levels and restlessness; the actors must interrelate, communicate 
physically, and be seen and heard as they solve the acting prob- 
lem. When an audience is restless, uninterested, the actors are 
responsible for this. 

16. The heart of improvisation is transformation. 

17. Avoid giving examples. While they are sometimes help- 
ful, the reverse is more often true, for the student is bound to 
give back what has already been experienced. 

18. If the environment in the workshop is joyous and free of 
authoritarianism, everyone will "play" and become as open as 
young children. 

19. The teacher-director must be careful to always stay with 
the POC. The tendency to discuss character, scene, etc. critically 
and psychologically is often difficult to stop. The POC keeps 
both the teacher and the student from wandering too far afield. 

"Did he solve the problem?" 

"He was good." 

"But did he solve the problem?" 

38 



Workshop Procedures 

20. No outside device is to be used during improvisations. 
All stage action must come out of what is actually happening 
on stage. If actors invent an outside device to create change this 
is avoidance of relationship and the problem itself. 

21. Actors in improvisational theater, like the dancer, musi- 
cian, or athlete, require constant workshops to keep alert and 
agile and to find new material. 

22. Act, don't react. This includes the teacher and group 
leader as well. To react is protective and constitutes with- 
drawal from the environment. Since we are seeking to reach 
out, a player must act upon the environment, which in turn acts 
upon him, catalytic action thus creating interaction that makes 
process and change (building of a scene) possible. This is a most 
important point of view for members of the workshop to have. 

23. If the student-actors are to develop their own material 
for scene improvisations, group selection and agreement on the 
simplest objects in the beginning work is essential to developing 
this group skill, 

24. The response of an audience is spontaneous (even when 
the response is boredom), and with rare exception (as when large 
numbers of friends and relatives are present), can be considered 
just. If the actors realize that they do not face a "put-on" re- 
sponse, they can then play with the audience as they would with 
another team. An actor can be reassured, "If they were a bad 
audience, then, of course, they deserve to be punished." 

25. Watch for excessive activity in early sessions of work- 
shop; discourage all performing, all cleverness. Students with 
previous training, natural leadership, or special talent will often 
ignore the POC just as the fearful one will resist it. Keep every- 
one's attention focused on the problem at all times. This discipline 
will bring the timid ones to fuller awareness and channel the 
freer ones towards greater personal development. 

26. Let all scenes develop out of the agreed stage environ- 
ment. The players must help each other "make do" with what is 
at hand if they are to truly improvise. As in games, the student- 
actors can play only by giving complete attention to the 
environment. 

27. Discipline imposed from the outside (emotional tug-of- 
war for position) and not growing out of involvement with the 

39 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

problem produces inhibited or rebellious action. On the other 
hand discipline freely chosen for the sake of the activity becomes 
responsible action, creative action; it takes imagination and dedi- 
cation to be self-disciplined. When the dynamics are understood 
and not superimposed, rules are abided by, and it is more fun 
that way. 

28. Keep the fine line between "emoting" and communicating 
always clear within the workshop by insisting upon concise 
physical expression (physicalizing) and not vague or stale 
"feeling." 

29. The sensory equipment of students is developed with 
every tool at our command, not to train for mechanical accuracy 
in observation, but for strengthening perception towards their 
expanding world. 

30. Unless needed to solve a specific problem in a play, re- 
membered experiences (recalls) are avoided as the group works 
for immediate (right now) spontaneous ones. Every individual 
has enough muscular memory and stored-away experience that 
can be used in a present-time situation without deliberately 
abstracting it from the total organism. 

31. If student and teacher are freed from ritual and authori- 
tarianism and allowed to share this freeing of their creativity, 
no one needs to dissect and examine his emotions. They will 
know that there are many ways of expressing something that 
cups, for instance, are held differently by different people and 
different groups. 

32. By helping to free the student-actor for the learning 
process and by inspiring him to communicate in the theater with 
dedication and passion, it will be found that the average person 
will not fail to respond to the art form. 

33. Warm-ups should be used before, during, and after work- 
shop sessions when necessary. They are brief acting exercises that 
refresh the student as well as catering to particular needs as seen 
by the teacher-director during each session. 

34. Stage life comes to the player by his giving life to the 
object. Giving life to the object prevents him from mirroring 
himself. 

35. Invention is not the same as spontaneity. A person may 
be most inventive without being spontaneous. The explosion does 

40 



Workshop Procedures 

not take place when invention is merely cerebral and therefore 
only a part or abstraction of our total selves. 

36. The teacher-director must learn to know when the stu- 
dent-actor is actually experiencing, or little will be gained by the 
acting problems. Ask him! 

37. Never use the advanced acting exercises as a bribe. Wait 
until students are ready to receive them. 

38. Allow students to find their own material. 

39. Self-discovery is the foundation of this way of working. 

40. Do not be impatient. Don't take over. Never force a 
nascent quality into false maturity through imitation or intel- 
lectualization. Every step is essential for growth. A teacher can 
only estimate growth, for each individual is his own "center of 
development." 

41. The more blocked, the more opinionated the student, the 
longer the process. The more blocked and opinionated the teacher 
or group leader, the longer the process. 

42. Tread gently. Keep all doors open for future growth. This 
includes the teacher and leader of the group as well. 

43. Do not be concerned if a student seems to be straying 
far from the teacher's idea of what should be happening to him. 
When he trusts the scheme and has pleasure in what he is doing, 
he will give up the bonds that keep him from release and full 
response. 

44. Every individual who involves himself and responds 
with his total organism to an art form usually gives back what 
is commonly called talented and creative behavior. When the 
student-actor responds joyfully, effortlessly, the teacher-director 
will know that the theater is, then, in his very bones. 

45. Always work to achieve the universal selection, the es- 
sence understood by all who see it. 

46. Ad-libbing and wordiness during the solving of prob- 
lems constitutes withdrawal from the problem, the environment, 
and each other. Verbalizing becomes an abstraction from total 
organic response and is used in place of contact to obscure the 
self, and when cleverly done, this is difficult to catch. Dialogue, 
on the other hand, is simply a further expression of a total human 
communication onstage. 

47. Train actors to handle theatrical reality, not illusion. 

41 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

48. Do not teach. Expose students to the theatrical environ- 
ment, and they will find their own way. 

49. Nothing is separate. In the unity of things rests growth 
and knowledge. Technical facts about the theater are available 
to everyone through many books. We seek far more than informa- 
tion about the theater. 

50. In the seed rests the flowering tree. So must the acting 
problems hold within them the prefiguring of their results from 
which "the individual in the art and the art in the individual" can 
flourish. 

51. To evolve problems to solve problems requires a person 
with rich knowledge of his field. 

52. Creativity is not rearranging; it is transformation. 

53. Sentiment, tear-jerking, etc. are cultural weapons. On our 
stages, let us cry and laugh not from old frames of reference but 
from the sheer joy of watching human beings explore a greater 
beyond. 

54. Imagination belongs to the intellect. When we ask some- 
one to imagine something, we are asking them to go into their 
own frame of reference, which might be limited. When we ask 
them to see, we are placing them in an objective situation where 
reaching out into the environment can take place, in which fur- 
ther awareness is possible. 

55. Tension, like competition, should be a natural part of 
the activity between players without every scene ending in a 
conflict to make something happen (release can come out of 
agreement) . This is not easily understood. A rope between players 
might set up opposite goals (conflict) in a tug-of-war, yet a rope 
between players pulling them all up a mountain could have simi- 
lar tension with all pulling together towards the same goal. Ten- 
sion and release are implicit in problem-solving. 

56. For improvisational theater, a player must always see and 
direct all action to his fellow players and not to the character he 
is playing. In this way each player will always know to whom to 
throw the ball, and players can help each other out. During per- 
formance and workshop, knowing this, when one has gone 
astray, the other can pull him back into the scene (game). 

57. Some students find It very difficult to keep from "writing 
a play/' They remain separate from the group and never inter- 

42 



Workshop Procedures 

relate. Their withdrawal blocks progress during the group-plan- 
ning sessions and while working onstage. They do not enter into 
relationships but manipulate their fellow students and the stage 
environment for their own purposes. This "playwriting" within 
the group violates the group agreement, prevents process with 
the other players, and keeps the user from achieving an expand- 
ing creative experience of his own. Playwriting is not scene im- 
provisation. Scene improvisation can only evolve out of group 
agreement and playing. If playwriting continues as the session 
progresses, the players do not understand the POC. Sometimes a 
whole group, not understanding this point, will all be playwriting. 

58. The player must be aware of himself in the environment 
equally with other players. This gives him self-identity without 
the need for exhibitionism. This is equally true of the teacher or 
group leader. 

59. Work for equality in the workshops and retreat from im- 
posing the teacher's authority. Allow the acting exercises to do 
the work. When students feel they "did it themselves/ 3 the 
teacher has succeeded in his role. 

60. Caution: if students consistently fail to solve the prob- 
lem and fall back on ad-libbing, story-telling, joke-making, and 
working separately, with body and body movement misshapened 
and distorted, their whole foundation is shaky. They have been 
rushed, or the function of group agreement and the POC has 
never been understood. They must go back to the earlier exercises 
and work on the simplest object involvements until they are sure 
enough of the beginning material to advance successfully. 

61. No one can play a game unless he is intent on both the 
object and his fellow player. 

62. Improvising in itself is not a system of training. It is sim- 
ply one of the tools in the training. Natural unrehearsed speech 
and response to a dramatic situation are only part of the total 
training. When "improvising" becomes an end in itself, it can kill 
spontaneity while fostering cleverness. Growth ceases as the per- 
formers take over. The more gifted and clever the players, the 
more difficult it is to discover this. Everyone ad-libs every waking 
hour of the day and responds to the world through his senses. 
It is the enriching, restructuring, and integration of all of these 
daily life responses for use in the art form that makes up the 

43 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

training of the actor for scene improvisation and formal theater. 

63. A moment of grandeur comes to everyone when they act 
out of their humanness without need for acceptance, exhibition- 
ism, or applause. An audience know this and responds accord- 
ingly. 

64. It takes a penetrating eye to see the environment, one's 
self within it, and make contact with it. 

65. All of us must constantly dig around, above, and below, 
cutting away the jungle to find the path. 

66. In scene improvisations, for better or for worse we all 
throw ourselves into the same pool. 

67. An audience is neither refreshed nor entertained when 
not included as part of the game. 

68. A fixed attitude is a closed door. 

69. When urgency (anxiety) appears, find the POC and hang 
on. It is the tail of the comet. 

70. Individual freedom (self-expression) while respecting 
community responsibility (group agreement) is our goal. 

71. The game exercises train for formal theater as well. Keep 
students working with both formal and improvisational theater 
for a rounded experience. 

72. Rote response to what is going on is a treadmill. 

73. Student-actors hang on to themselves out of sheer des- 
peration, fearful they might "fall off the cliff." 

74. Acting is doing. 

75. Right of individual choice is part of group agreement. 

76. No one player can decide by himself that a scene ( game ) 
is ended even if his theater sense is correct. If for any reason a 
player wishes to leave the scene, he may do so by inciting action 
within the group to end the scene by solving the problem, or, 
failing that, he may find a reason to exit within the structure of the 
scene. 

77. Group agreement is not permissiveness; it simply keeps 
everyone playing the same game. 

78. Let the object put us in motion. 

79. It is difficult to understand the need for a "blank" mind 
free of preconceptions when working on an acting problem. Yet 
everyone knows that you cannot fill a basket unless it is empty. 

44 



Workshop Procedures 

80. Contact comes out of our sensory equipment, Self-pro- 
tection (assumption, prejudices, etc.) keeps us from contact. 

81. It takes courage to move out into the new, the unknown. 

82. The theater games are cumulative. If students do not 
show some integration of earlier exercises when working on new 
ones, the workshops may be pushing ahead too quickly. 

83. When players are always alerted and willing to come to 
each other's aid as needed, each member of the cast is given a 
sense of security. This mutual support brings a feeling of well- 
being to the audience. 

84. Any player who "steals" a scene is a thief. 

85. A close-working group in improvisational theater often 
communicates on a non-verbal level with uncanny skill and 
swiftness. 

86. Improvisation is not exchange of information between 
players; it is communion. 

87. Any player who feels urgent about the game and plays it 
alone does not trust his fellow players. 

88. Many want only to reaffirm their own frame of reference 
and will resist a new experience. 

89. Players must learn to use any and every break made dur- 
ing the solving of problems for the scene itself. Breaks, for the 
most part, are momentarily pulling away from the stage environ- 
ment and relationships. If this happens through laughter, for in- 
stance, the teacher-director simply side-coaches, "Use your laugh- 
ter." This is easily picked up the player, and he utilizes the energy 
and "legalizes" it within the scene. A student-actor soon learns 
that there is no such thing as a break on stage, for anything that 
happens is energy that can be channeled into the mainstream of 
the scene. 

90. On stage, one's taking is the other's giving. 

91. Everyone, including the teacher-director, is strengthened 
and moves towards action and leadership when "reasons" for not 
doing something (or doing something) are not acceptable. The 
simple statement, "There is always a reason," keeps the student 
from verbalizing "reasons" further. It is important to know that 
each and every reason is valid, whether it be socially acceptable 
or not, whether it be in truth "a sick grandmother" or just dilly- 
dallying, for in every case the "reason" created the present prob- 

45 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

lem, whether it be lateness to rehearsal or a quarrel between play- 
ers. When the youngest actor knows that the only thing that mat- 
ters is to keep the game going and that a "reason" is but a past 
step that holds up the game, he is freed from the need to be 
servile. Reasons have value to us only when they are an integral 
part of and help us to understand the present situation. Any other 
reason is imposed. It is a private matter and therefore useless ex- 
cept for possible subjective reasons. 

92. An object can be put in motion only through it's own na- 
ture and will not respond to manipulation. To transform or alter 
an object requires total absorption without meddling. Let it hap- 
pen! Stay out of it! 

93. The question often arises, "Is the child more fanciful, 
freer than the adult?" Actually, when the adult is freed for the 
experiencing, his contribution to scene improvisation is far greater 
because his life experiences are wider and more varied. 

94. No one knows the outcome of a game until he plays it. 

95. Without the other player, there is no game. We cannot 
play tag if there is no one to tag. 

96. Scene improvisation will never grow out of the artificial 
separation of players by the "star" system. Players with unusual 
skills will be recognized and applauded without being separated 
from their fellow players. Group harmony pleases an audience and 
brings a new dimension to the theater. 



46 



Exercises 



ill. Orientation 

Orientation must be given to each new student, particularly 
in the case of lay actors. The first exercise in Exposure and the 
subsequent exercises of Involvement provide the foundations 
upon which all following problems are laid. 

This chapter contains an outline for five Orientation sessions. 
It should be noted that the material set up within each session 
may be covered completely at two or three meetings or may re- 
quire additional sessions, depending upon the size of the group 
and their response. The teacher-director would do well to take 
her time in covering this material, no matter how many sessions 
this entails. 

Orientation Purposes 

Orientation is not to be looked upon as a mere introductory or 
"getting acquainted" process. It is, instead, the first step in creat- 
ing reality set before the student-actor; and, as such, it has signi- 
ficant value for the beginner. Indeed, student-actors who do not 
receive a proper Orientation are generally much slower to grasp 
the subsequent acting problems. This is particularly true when 
they have missed Exposure. Even highly trained actors benefit 
from the clarified communication and the definition of terms 
which the Orientation experience brings them. 

1. It establishes the non-acting, problem-solving approach 
by bringing the first organic awareness of self, object, and en- 
vironment to the student. It is the first step in removal of the 
subjective pretend/illusion response. 

49 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

2. It takes the student over the first steps in relating to Object. 

3. It takes the students over the first step in Involvement 
with Object. It sets the reality of the Object among them. 

4. It sets up the technique of theater games and brings fun 
and spontaneity into the acting exercises. 

5. It encourages group agreement and individual participa- 
tion in making decisions. 

6. It establishes group agreement and the necessity of inter- 
dependent action to solve the problem. 

7. It is the first step in breaking the student's dependency 
upon the teacher by establishing the teacher as part of the group. 

8. It introduces the actors' responsibilities to the audience 
and shows them how to include the audience as part of the game. 

9. It introduces the audience's responsibility towards the 
actors and presents the audience (students and teacher-director 
alike) as an evaluator, not as a judge; for it removes judgmental 
words from the evaluation. It eliminates personal interpretations 
and assumptions which spring from limited frames of reference 
and shows how to turn evaluation away from the personalities 
of both the actors and the audience. It creates mutual focus on 
the problem at hand. 

10. It introduces the student-actor to the Point of Concentra- 
tion and to the need for directed (focused) energy while on stage. 
"Keep your eye on the ball!" 

11. It establishes a working vocabulary between the teacher- 
director and the student. 

12. It induces the student to meet himself and make his first 
personal physical analysis of his "feelings" (in determining ten- 
sions) and reduces his fears of the audience, the activity, and 
the teacher director. 

13. It gives each student the right to his own observations 
and allows him to select his own material. 

14. It sets the tone for the work to follow adventuring and 
non-forcing, the awakening of the intuitive. 

First Orientation Session 

If the following outline is thoroughly understood and ab- 
sorbed into our reading attitude when going through this hand- 
book, we will have no trouble in making the exercises our 

50 



Orientation 

own. Simply stated, here are the components which we bear in 
mind as we go through each exercise: 

1. Introduction to the exercise 

2. Point of Concentration 

3. Side Coaching 

4. Example 

5. Evaluation 

6. Points of Observation 

Exposure 

Divide the total group into halves. Send one half to stand in 
a single line across the stage, while the other remains in the audi- 
ence. Each group audience and on stageis to observe the other. 
Coach: "You look at us. Well look at you." Those on stage will 
soon become uncomfortable. Some will giggle and shift from 
foot to foot; others will freeze in position or try to appear non- 
chalant. If the audience starts to laugh, stop them. Just keep 
coaching: "You look at us. Well look at you." 

When each person on stage has shown some degree of dis- 
comfort, give the group that is standing a task to accomplish. 
Counting is a useful activity, since it requires focus: tell them to 
count the floorboards or the seats in the auditorium. They are to 
keep counting until you tell them to stop, even if they have to 
count the same things over. Keep them counting until their dis- 
comfort is gone and they show bodily relaxation. Then their 
bodies have a natural look, although at first they continue to 
show signs of years of held muscles. 

When the initial discomfort has disappeared and they have 
become absorbed in what they are doing, reverse the groups: 
the audience is now on stage, and the actors have become the 
audience. Handle the second group just as you did the first. 
Do not tell them that you will give them anything to do. The 
direction to count (or whatever is useful) should be given only 
after they too have become uncomfortable. 

Exposure Group Evaluation 

When both groups have been on stage, instruct all the stu- 
dents to return to the audience. Now question the whole group 
about the experience they have just had. Be careful not to put 

51 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

words into their mouths. Let them discover for themselves how 
they felt. Discuss each part of the exercise separately. 

How did you feel when you were first standing on stage? 

There will be few answers at first. Some might say, "I felt self- 
conscious" or "I wondered why you had us standing there/' Such 
answers are generalities which indicate the student's resistance 
to the exposure he has just experienced. Try to break down the 
resistance. For instance, ask the audience: 

How did the actors look when they first stood on stage? 

The members of the audience will be quick to respond, since 
they will readily forget that they also were "the actors" them- 
selves. Although they may also use generalities, they will speak 
up more freely when talking about the others. 

Encourage the actors to describe their physical responses to 
their first experience on stage. It is far easier for them to say 
"The calves of my legs were tight" or "My hands felt bloated" or 
"I felt out of breath" or "I felt tired" than it is to admit "I was 
afraid." But you may not get even this physical description until 
you ask directly: 

How did your stomach feelP 

When these physical descriptions are flowing freely, then 
allow all the students to speak up in as much detail as they wish. 
You will find that the student who previously covered up and in- 
sisted he was comfortable when first standing on stage will sud- 
denly remember that his lips were dry or the palms of his hands 
were moist. Indeed, as their concern about self-exposure sub- 
sides, they will speak about their muscular tensions almost with 
relief. There will always be a few who will remain resistant; but 
they will be influenced by the group's freedom in time and should 
not be singled out at the beginning. 

Keep the discussion brief and on a group level. Steer them 
away from emotional responses and generalities. If a student 
says, "I felt self-conscious," just reply: "I don't know what you 
mean how did your shoulders feel?" 

When the first part of the exercise has been fully discussed, 
then move on to the second part. 

52 



Orientation 

How did you feel when you were counting the boards? 

Be careful not to refer to it as "when you had something to 
do." Let this realization come to each student in his own way, 
particularly when working with lay actors and children. (Pre- 
sumably, all professional actors already know that ""something to 
do" on stage is what we seek. This "something to do" allows the 
player to receive the environment. ) 

What about the fluttering in your stomach? What happened to 
your watery eyes? Did the stiffness leave your neck? 

The answer will be, "It went away"; and why it went away 
will soon become evident: "Because I had something to do." 

And it is this "something to do" (focused energy) that we call 
the actor's Point of Concentration. Quickly explain to your stu- 
dents that counting the boards (their "something to do") will be 
replaced by a different acting problem each time they do an exer- 
cise; and that this acting problem this something-to-do, will be 
called their Point of Concentration. 

Sensory Awareness 1 

At this point, the group should be greatly released and recep- 
tiveready for a short discusison of the senses and their value as 
tools. When it is pointed out that, in stage life, mashed potatoes 
are often served as ice cream and stone walls are actually made 
of wood and canvas (indeed, in improvisational theater, props 
and scenery are rarely used at all), students will begin to under- 
stand how an actor through his sensory (physical) equipment 
must make real for an audience what is not real. 

This physical or sensory involvement with objects should be 
firmly established in the student-actor in the beginning sessions. 
It is a first step on the path to building other and more complex 
stage relationships. The object agreed upon is the one reality 
between the players around which they gather. This is the first 
step in group agreement. The following exercises provide the 
basis for developing this sensory awareness. 



WALK used with sensory-awareness exercises is especially valu- 
able for child actors (Chapter IX). 



53 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

SEEING A SPORT 

Two teams. Players divide by counting off in twos. This is the 

first random team grouping and is most important. 

By group agreement, the team decides what sport they are 
going to watch. When group agreement has been reached, the 
team goes on stage. Players themselves are to call "Curtain!" when 
they are ready. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on seeing 

SIDE COACHING: See with your feet! See with your neck! See 

with your whole body! See it 100 times larger! Show us, don't 

tell us! See with your ears! 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Tell the students beforehand that the event they are going to 
watch is taking place some distance away from them ( so they 
must concentrate on watching closely). This is the first step 
in getting them out into the environment. If distance is not 
stressed, they will sit with their eyes cast downward, never 
venturing away from their immediate surroundings. 

2. While the group is watching, side-coach frequently. If a stu- 
dent looks at you wonderingly when you first call out, tell him 
to hear your voice but to keep his concentration on watching. 
If the POC (seeing) is sustained (as in the counting of the 
boards during EXPOSURE), tension will be released, fear will 
be well on the way out. 

3. The individuals on a team are not to have any interplay dur- 
ing the "seeing" but are to individually watch the event. This 
is a simple way of getting single or individual work from them 
while they are still within the security of a group. 

SEEING A SPORT, RECALL 

Full group. 

All sit quietly and think of a time when they were seeing a 
sport, whether ten years ago or last week. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on the whole scene seeing the colors, 
hearing the sounds, watching the people, following the move- 
ment, etc. 

54 



Orientation 

SIDE COACHING: Focus on colors! Listen for sounds! Concen- 
trate on smells! Now put them all together! See movement! 
Focus on what's above, below, around you. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Recalls for the most part should be avoided, since they are 
more useful clinically than for the art form. Sensory exercises 
are given to provide the student-actors with a quick example 
of the vastness and availability of past experience. Present ex- 
perience is the aim of the workshops, but recalls will arise and 
be spontaneously selected when needed. ( See Reminders and 
Pointers, No. 30, p. 40, and Definition of Terms.) 

2. "Seeing" homework: Tell the students to take a few moments 
out of each day to concentrate on seeing the things around 
them, noticing colors, listening to sounds, observing the en- 
vironment. 



LISTENING TO THE ENVIRONMENT 

All are to sit quietly for one minute and listen to the sounds of 
the immediate environment. They then compare the sounds they 
heard: birds, traffic, creaking chairs, etc. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on hearing the sounds around them. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

Assign this exercise as homework, to be done a few minutes each 
day. 



WHAT AM 1 LISTENING TO? 

Two teams 

Each team decides (by group agreement) what they will lis- 
ten to. They are to choose either a lecture or a musical program 
and should decide specifically what type of lecture or concert 
it is to be (e.g., classical music, psychology, jazz). 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on listening. 

See SEEING A SPORT, p. 54, for side coaching and points of ob- 
servation. 

55 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Listening homework: Tell the students to take a moment or two 
out of every day to concentrate on the sounds around them. 

FEELING SELF WITH SELF 

Group remains seated in audience. 

Beginning with the bottoms of their feet, they are to feel 
what is against their bodies at each point. The feet feel the stock- 
ings, the shoes, and the floor beneath them; the legs feel the 
slacks or the stockings; the waist feels the belt; the finger feels the 
ring; the teeth feel the lips; etc. ) . 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on feeling s^lf with self. 

SIDE COACHING: Feel self with self! Feel your feet in your 

shoes, your legs in your slacks! Feel the atmosphere around 

you! Reach out into the space! 

When they have felt all the parts of their body, then coach 
them to stand up and push their way through the room. (See 

SPACE SUBSTANCE, p. 81. 

SIDE COACHING: Penetrate the atmosphere! Make the air heavy! 
The air is lighter and lighter! 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Warn the students not to touch the parts with their hands but 
to feel with the various parts of their bodies. 

2. Coach continuously throughout the exercise. 

3. "Feeling" homework: Tell the students to take a moment each 
day to feel themselves pushing through the atmosphere while 
walking. Tell them to reach out into the atmosphere with the 
surface of their body. Suggest that they feel "plump." 

IDENTIFYING OBJECTS GAME 

Players stand in circle. One player is called to center, where 
he stands with his hands behind his back. Teacher-director slips 
some object into his hands. Using his sense of feel, he is to guess 
what the object is. 

Ask the player: What color is it? How is it shaped? How big 
is it? What is it for? 

56 



Orientation 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

It is best to choose objects that are fairly recognizable, although 
not well known or used every day (e.g., poker chip, playing 
card, paper of pins, pencil sharpener, comb case, rubber stamp, 
apple). 

GROUP TOUCH EXERCISE #1 

Have the group feel a single object that they all have used 
hundreds of times, such as soap. 

Ask the players: Do you think your hand remembers the feel 
of soap? The answer will be a unanimous "yes!" 

Change objects after a time, keeping them familiar. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on feeling the object. 
SIDE COACHING: Let your hand remember! 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

Go directly into the next exercise after the players have solved 
this problem.' 



GROUP TOUCH EXERCISE #2 

Two teams. 

Each group is to select some familiar object or substance 
(sand, clay, etc.) through group agreement. When group agree- 
ment has been reached, team goes on stage. All members use the 
same objects or substances simultaneously. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to focus all energy on the object its 
size, shape, texture, temperature, etc. 

SIDE COACHING: Feel the texture! Feel its temperature! Feel 
its weight! Feel its shape! 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

"Touch" homework: Tell the students to take a few minutes out of 
every day to pick up and handle an object, then put the object 
down and try to recall how it felt. 

57 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

TASTE AND SMELL 
Two teams. 

Each group is to select something very simple to eat. When 
group agreement has been reached, first team goes on stage and 
proceeds to eat, smelling and tasting the food as they go along. 

POINT or CONCENTRATION: to taste and smell the food. 
SIDE COACHING: Chew the food! Feel its texture in your mouth! 
Taste the food! Let it god down your throat! 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

"Taste" and "Smell" homework: While eating at home, the stu- 
dents are to take a few minutes to concentrate on the taste and 
smell of their food. 

EVALUATION OF SENSORY EXERCISES 

Was concentration complete or incomplete? It probably va- 
ried, since it takes time to learn concentration on stage. Stress that 
when concentration on the problem was complete, we, the audi- 
ence, could see. 

What were they handling, seeing, listening to, etc.? Keep this 
discussion centered on the whole group effort, not on individuals. 

Did they show us or tell us? Even if they did not speak but 
used very obvious physical actions rather than focusing energy 
on the problem, they were telling rather than showing. For in- 
stance, if a player "pantomimed" what he saw while watching a 
baseball game, then he was telling. If, on the other hand, he held 
on tightly to the problem of seeing, he made good use of the 
Point of Concentration. 

Showing becomes a physicalization of seeing and is not a pan- 
tomime. It grows out the problem and is not imposed upon it. 
Telling is calculated and comes from the head; showing is spon- 
taneous and comes from the intuitive. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION FOR SENSORY EXERCISES 

1. These exercises use the first random team-groupings which 
will be part of all subsequent workshop sessions. In this case, 
with only two large teams, the students can simply count 
off in twos. 

2. Each team must come to group agreement before going on 

58 



Orientation 

stage. There should be no interplay or dialogue on stage be- 
tween players during these exercises. In this way, premature 
situations are avoided and thus "acting." They are working 
alone together, you might say. 

3. Each student is to work individually on the sensory prob- 
lems while remaining a part of the group. Do not ask sep- 
arate individuals to perform during this first session. The 
group security is essential if the individual is to release his 
muscle hold (fears). 

4. When "Curtain!" must be called by a team ready to start an 
exercise, do not appoint anyone to do this, but let them as 
individuals or a groupstep spontaneously into the theater 
experience by calling for their curtain. As simple as this may 
seem, it is most important. The call for "Curtain!" is, in effect, 
the magical rising of the actual theater curtain, even though 
the "theater" may be nothing more than a row of chairs and 
an open space at the end of a large room. 

5. If some students look to see what their neighbors are doing 
after "Curtain!" has been called, side-coach: Everyone listens 
in his own way! Keep your point of concentration on the 
problem, not on your neighbor! While a percentage of every 
age group of students will "peek" in this way, it is more prev- 
alent among children (see The Uncertain Child, p. 289). 
Stopping the exercise momentarily to explain that it is not a 
MIRROR (imitation) EXERCISE should clear it up for student. 
Do not point out the player who is doing the peeking. He 
does it out of a need to <c do right" and will soon learn that 
there is no right or wrong way to solve a problem. 

6. Do not begin Evaluation until all the students have had their 
chance on stage. 

7. It is during the Evaluation that the students' value judgments 
of good/bad-right/wrong are replaced with the impersonal 
terms of complete/incomplete. 

8. Do not dwell on the problem too long. These exercises are 
the first step in helping the student to recognize that physical 
memory exists within him and can be called up intuitively 
whenever he needs it. They show him that he need not with- 
draw into a subjective world that he need not move into a 
cloud of past memories when working in the theater. 

59 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

9, Side coaching during these exercises should help to free bod- 
ily response in the student-actors. If an individual resists this 
side coaching, call out: Don't think about what Fm saying! 
Let your body listen! 

10. It is advisable for the teacher-director to end the exercises 
at this early stage, rather than waiting for the student-actors 
to end them. 

11. Discourage all jokes, premature situations, etc. by keeping 
the students* concentration on the reality. 

12. Avoid the parlor-game attitude which these exercises might 
provoke. The audience is not to guess the audience must 
know through what the actors show. 

13. Although sensory awareness will be a part of every Evalua- 
tion from now on, it will rarely be the main Point of Con- 
centration. Instead, it will be considered a secondary part 
of every problem, to be developed along with other skills. 



MIRROR EXERCISE #1 

Two players. 

A faces B. A is the mirror, and B initiates all movement. A re- 
flects all B's activities and facial expressions. While looking into 
the mirror, B takes a simple activity such as washing or dressing. 
After a time, reverse the roles with B playing the mirror and A 
initiating the movement. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: exact mirror reflections of the initiator's 
movements, from head to foot. 

SIDE COACHING: Follow the movements exactly! Keep your actions 
exact! Be a mirror! 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

This exercise can give you a quick index into each student's na- 
tural sense of play, clowning, inventiveness, ability to create ten- 
sion, and timing. Look for: 

In A 1. body alertness 

( mirror ) 2. accuracy of observation ( attentiveness ) 

3. ability to stay with B and not make assumptions; 
e.g., if B takes a familiar activity like putting on 

60 



Orientation 

makeup, does A anticipate and therefore assume 
the next action, or does A stay with B? 
4. ability to provide true reflection; e.g., if B uses 
right hand, does A use right hand or opposite 
hand? 

In B 1. inventiveness (are his actions more than pedes- 

( initiator trian?) 

of activity) 2. exhibitionism (does he joke to get audience 
laughing? ) 

3. humor (does he "fool" the mirror and alter ac- 
tions?) 

4. variation (does he, without coaching, change 
movement rhythms? ) 

Have student-actors use this exercise without telling their audi- 
ence which one of the two is the mirror. This effort to confound 
the audience demands a heightened concentration and produces 
a more intense involvement with the problem and each other. 
This is an early step in breaking down the walls between actor 
and actor and actor and audience. 



TUG-OF-WAR 

Two players. 

The players must play tug-of-war with an imaginary rope. The 
"rope" is the object between them. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to give the imaginary rope reality. 

SIDE COACHING: Feel the rope! Feel it's texture! Its thickness! 
Make it real! 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Body action should come out of the rope's reality. If full con- 
centration is put on the object between the players, they will 
use as much energy as they would use if pulling an actual rope. 

2. Watch for the performer who "fits in" by guiding himself 
more by the action of his partner than by the POC. No matter 
how clever he may be, he is avoiding the problem. 

61 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

3. This is a very important exercise, since it shows both actors 
and audience that as in a game almost all the problems they 
will work on can be solved only through interaction with an- 
other player. No player can do the exercise alone. It also 
points up the need to give the object reality for the interaction 
to take place. 

4. Your players should leave this exercise with all the physical 
effects of having actually played tug-of-war (i.e., warm, out 
of breath, pink cheeks, etc.). If this has not occurred even 
partially, then you may be sure that your players were pre- 
tending. 



ORIENTATION GAME 

One person goes on stage, picks a simple activity, and begins 
doing it. Other players come on stage one at a time and join him 
in this activity. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on showing the activity. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. The simple activity might consist of painting a fence, beating 
a rug, scrubbing a floor, raking leaves. 

2. Players are not to know ahead of time what the first player is 
doing. 

3. This group interaction should create flow and energy. Repeat 
the game until this takes place. 



Second Orientation Session 
OBSERVATION GAME 2 

A dozen or more real objects are placed on a tray., which is 
set in the center of the circle of players. After ten or fifteen sec- 
onds, the tray is covered and/or removed. The players then write 
individual lists of the names of as many of the objects as fhey can 
remember. The lists are then compared with the tray of objects. 



2 Neva L. Boyd, Handbook of Games (Chicago: H. T. Fitzsimons Co., 
1945), p. 84. 



62 



Orientation 

NAME SIX GAME 3 

All the players except one, who stands in the center, sit in a 
circle. The center player closes his eyes while the others pass 
any small object from one to the other. When the center player 
claps his hands, the player who is caught with the object in his 
hands must keep it until the center player points at him and 
gives him a letter of the alphabet. (No effort is made to hide 
the object from the center player. ) 

Then the player who has the object must start it on its 
way immediately so that it passes through the hands of each of 
the players in the circle in turn. By the time it returns to him, he 
must have named six objects, the name of each beginning with 
the letter suggested by the center player. 

If the player does not succeed in naming six objects in the 
time that the object makes the round of the circle, that player 
must change places with the one in the center. If the circle is 
small, the object should be passed around two or more times. 

PLAY BALL 

The group first decides on the size of the ball; and then the 
members toss the ball among themselves on stage. Once the 
game is in motion, the teacher-director calls out that the ball is 
becoming various weights. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on the weight and size of the ball. 
SIDE COACHING: The ball is one hundred times lighter! The ball is 
one hundred times heavier! The ball is normal again! 

EVALUATION 

Did all players concentrate on the weight of the ball? Did 
they show us or tell us? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Watch for students who use body to show relationship to the 
ball. Did the body become light and float with the lighter 
ball? Did the body become heavy with the heavier ball? Do 
not bring this to the students' attention, however, until all 
have worked the problem. If Evaluation is given before all the 
students have been on stage with the problem, many will try 

*lbid. 9 p. 99. 

63 



IMPKOVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



to perform to please the teacher and will act out lightness or 
heaviness rather than keeping with the Point of Concentra- 
tion (which spontaneously produces the result we are after). 
2, In conjunction with this exercise, have the group play a game 
together (e.g., jumping rope, baseball, ping pong). 



INVOLVEMENT IN TWOS 

Two players. 

Players agree on an object between them and begin an activ- 
ity with it (as in TUG-OF-WAR). In this case, the object they 
choose determines the activity (e.g., spreading a sheet, pulling 
a blanket between them in bed, taffy pulling) . 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on the object between them. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. One way to prevent student-actors from planning How (see 
p. 35) is to have each team write the name of an object on a 
slip of paper. The slips of paper are then collected and placed 
in a hat; and each team picks from the hat just prior to going 
on stage. This is enjoyable for everyone. 

2. For this first involvement, suggest that the object be one 

which ordinarily brings forth a tactile response. 
t 

INVOLVEMENT IN THREES OR MORE 

Three or more players. 

Group agrees on an object which cannot be used without in- 
volving all of them. They are to participate in a joint action in 
which all move the same thing. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to make the object real. 

EXAMPLES: pulling a fishnet, tugging a boat, portaging a canoe, 

pushing a stalled car, taffy pulling. 

EVALUATION 

Did they work together? If three people pushed a car and the 
fourth sat behind the wheel, the problem was not solved, for all 
did not physically move the car. 

64 



Orientation 

Did they need each other to solve the problem, or could one 
of them have managed the problem alone? If one of the players 
could have managed the problem alone, then the group's choice 
of an object was incorrect for the problem presented. 

Did they work together or separately? If three people were 
using the activity of painting an object, then they were working 
separately even though they were working on the same project. 
However, if the people needed each other to move the object, 
then they would be working on the problem. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. INVOLVEMENT WITH TWOS will almost automatically keep 
players involved together. INVOLVEMENT IN THREES OR MORE 
may tend to confuse them. Do not give any examples, how- 
ever; allow them to discover the solution to the problem 
themselves. 

2. Watch to see that the students do not work separately while 
in the group. 



INVOLVEMENT WITHOUT HANDS 

Two or more players. 

Players agree on an animate or inanimate object between 
them. Players are to set object between them in motion without 
using their hands. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to show and manipulate the object 
between them without using their hands. 

EXAMPLE: pushing a rock, pushing a car, getting a toboggan to 
move, mountain climbing (rope tied to waist), raising a board to 
shoulder. 

EVALUATION 

Did they show us the object or tell us? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Do not let the students take a built-in no-hands object such as 
mashing grapes with the feet, for this is resistance to the POC. 

2. Watch for spontaneity and unusual ways of putting the 
objects in motion. 

65 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



3. Remember, giving examples is telling How to your students! 

4. As a first step to the above exercise it might be advisable to 
have something that ties all the players together such as a 
chain gang. The third step is WHERE WITHOUT HANDS, p. 145, 
to be used sometime after the introduction of Where. 



MIRROR EXERCISE #2 
Four players on a team. 

Team divides into sub-teams. Sub-teams reflect each other. 
Sub-team A is mirror; sub-team B initiates all movement. Sub- 
team that initiates movement must agree on an activity involving 
both players. Play as in MIRROR EXERCISE #1, p. 60. After a time, 
reverse the teams. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: mirror sub-team is to reflect all move- 
ments exactly. 

EXAMPLE: Barber shaving customer. Sub-team A then becomes 
the reflection of the barber and customer and must follow the 
shaving activity exactly. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

This exercise should be given again when the student-actors come 
to the problems on seeing. 

ORIENTATION GAME #2 

One player goes on stage and starts an activity. Other players 
join him one at a time, as definite characters (Who), and begin 
an action related to his activity. 

EXAMPLE: First player is a surgeon. Other players are nurse, 
scrub nurse, anesthetist, intern, etc. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Players are not to know ahead of time what the first player 
is doing or who he is. 

2. At each session, play the ORIENTATION GAME until your stu- 
dent-actors are entering into the problem with excitement and 
fun, just as they would in any game. This releases a flow of 
energy that results in group interaction and brings a natural 

66 



Orientation 

quality in speech and movement. If this does not happen, you 
are not communicating the Point of Concentration. If the 
scene becomes too verbal or if the players move around aim- 
lessly, then they are not focused on group activity but are 
singly ad-libbing or playwriting. Should this occur, have your 
first player start a game (ping pong, baseball, etc.) and 
encourage the others to join in. 

3. While Who is added here, take care that the activity is kept 
in the foreground, or students will begin to "act." 

Third Orientation Session 
WHO STARTED THE MOTION? 4 

Players are seated in a circle. One player is sent from the room 
while the others select a leader to start the motion. The player 
is then called back. He stands in the center of the circle and tries 
to discover the leader, whose function it is to make a motion- 
tapping foot, nodding head, moving hands, etc. and to change 
motions whenever he wishes. The other players copy these mo- 
tions and try to keep the center player from guessing the leader's 
identity. 

When the center player discovers the leader, two other players 
are chosen to take their place. 

DIFFICULTY WITH SMALL OBJECTS 

(Use at intervals throughout training.) 

A. Single player 

Player becomes involved with small object. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: having difficulty with object. 
EXAMPLES: Opening a bottle, opening a stuck purse, forcing a 
drawer open, tearing open a cigarette pack. 

B. Single player 

Player becomes involved with a piece of clothing 

EXAMPLES: stuck zipper on back of dress, tight boots, a ripped 
lining in coat sleeve. 

*Ibid., p. 84. 

67 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

C. Two or more players 

This is the same as A and B except that it involves more 
players. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

Resistance to the POC will show itself in a player who intel- 
Actualizes the problem, Instead of having a physical difficulty 
with the object, he may, for instance, have a hole in his shoe 
and take a dollar bill out of his wallet to place in the shoe to 
cover up the hole. This is a "joke" and total avoidance of the 
exercise presented. 



HOW OLD AM I? 

Single player 

Teacher-director sets up a simple Where, preferably a corner 
bus stop. Set includes bench downstage and a storefront back- 
ground. Player writes down age on slip of paper and hands it 
to teacher-director before going on stage. Player comes on stage 
and waits for bus. Each player is given one or two minutes for 
exercise. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on the age chosen. 

SIDE COACHING: The bus is half a Hock down! It's coming closer; 
It's here! Sometimes adding, It's held up in traffic! gives added 
insight to the character. 

EXAMPLE i (done by an adult): A character skips on stage, 
chewing gum. He glances down the street, sees nothing, sits on 
bench, and begins blowing bubbles with gum. He gets it stuck 
on his nose, cleans up the sticky mess with tongue and finger, 
glances down street again but sees nothing. He twirls around, 
notices shop windows, goes to them and peers in, pressing his 
hands against the glass. He moves downstage, blowing more 
bubbles, fumbles in his pocket searching for something, but can- 
not find it. Disturbed, he goes quickly through all his pockets, 
pulls out a yo-yo, and starts playing with it. The bus arrives. He 
quickly puts yo-yo back into his pocket and anxiously fumbles 
around for bus fare. 

68 



Orientation 

EXAMPLE ii (done by an 11-year-old boy): A character comes 
on stage with a firm, aggressive step. He is carrying something in 
his hand. He glances down the street, sees nothing coming, and 
sits down on the bench. He puts what he is carrying on his lap 
and opens what seems to be a briefcase. He thumbs through a 
few of the sections, pulls out a paper, glances at it, takes a pen 
out of his inside coat pocket, makes a note on the paper, puts 
it back into the briefcase, zips it closed, looks down the street, 
and, seeing no bus, places briefcase on the ground. He looks down 
the street restlessly still no bus. He rises, walks up and down, 
notices the show windows, glances in them, and smoothes his 
hair. He comes back as the bus is arriving and grabs up his 
briefcase. 

EVALUATION 

How old was he? Did he show us or tell us? Are age qualities 
always physical? Are age differences part of an attitude toward 
life? Did he see the bus or was he just listening to coaching? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. At this early stage a student-actor will usually give some 
bodily rhythms and a good deal of activity (business) to help 
clarify age. 

2. Discourage "acting" and/or "performing" during this exercise 
by stopping the action whenever necessary. 

3. When doing HOW OLD AM i? REPEAT during the tenth or 
twelfth session of Where, recall this first solving of the prob- 
lem to your student-actors. 

4. Coach "Held up in traffic" only when you want to explore 
student-actor's work further. 



HOW OLD AM 1? REPEAT 

Single player. 

Player sits quietly on bench waiting for bus and concentrating 
on age only. When ready he moves into action, and what he needs 
for the problem will come up for his use. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: thinking age only, repeating it over and 
over again to himself. 

69 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

SIDE COACHING: Concentrate on the problem! Thing the age 
in your feet! Your upper lip! Your spine! 

When age appears : Bus is a block away! Held up in traffic! 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

It is difficult for the student-actor to believe that: 

1. The blank mind (free of preconception) is what we are after 
if we are to enrich our experience. 

2. If concentration is truly on age only, student-actors and audi- 
ence alike will have a most inspirational experience as the 
student-actor becomes older or younger spontaneously with 
little or no overt action or need for stage business. 

3. This exercise will work only if the student-actor truly blanks 
his mind of any imagery relating to this age (repeating this 
age over and over with the assist of the Side Coaching will 
help in this ) . 

4. Concentrating on the age alone serves to release body mem- 
ory to such an extraordinary degree that the player shows us 
age with the minutest of body movements and gesture, sub- 
tleties that one would expect to see in only the most accom- 
plished and experienced of actors. Again we see that to ex- 
perience new adventures, we must trust the scheme and let 
the Point of Concentration do the work. 

5. If the problem was solved, the student-actor should come 
from this exercise with more body grace evident because of 
some loss of rigidity, with muscular release and shiny eyes. 
New sources of energy and knowledge were truly released. 
"They showed age without doing anything!" is an excited com- 
ment often heard by student-actors. 

6. To prepare himself for action, the player should concentrate 
on exhalation as in EXCURSION INTO THE INTUITIVE. 



OBJECT MOVING PLAYERS 5 

Any number of players. 

Players agree on object which is to move them. They are to be 
an interrelated group. 

5 See also USING OBJECTS TO EVOLVE SCENE, p. 212. 
70 



Orientation 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION; on the object that is moving them. 

SIDE COACHING: Feel the object! Let the object move ijoul Joure 
all in it together! 

EXAMPLES: sailboat, car, merry-go-round, ferris wheel. 

EVALUATION - 

To audience: Did they allow the object to move them, or did 
they initiate movement independent of the object? Did they move 
by watching the other players? 

To actors: Did you make this a mirror game (reflection of 
others ) , or did you work on the point of concentration? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Watch to see whether the players -feel the object between 
them. This sometimes occurs to an extraordinary degree when 
the students have played together many months or when they 
are concentrating deeply on the problem. 

2. Many students will ask: "Should we watch the other players 
to know when to move?" This is the student asking the 
teacher "How do I do it?" which indicates a dependency. A 
simple "Let the object move you" repeated over and over 
again aids in breaking this dependency. 

3. If the Point of Concentration is kept totally on the object, a 
group reality appears that is felt by the actors and evident to 
the audience. 

4. It may be that the players will finally "let go" and let the ob- 
ject move them only after constant coaching. Most of them 
will "let go" if the Point of Concentration is understood and 
if the side coaching reaches them; moreover, each team should 
be kept on stage until this does happen for most of them. 

5. Repeat this exercise throughout the training. 

IT'S HEAVIER WHEN ITS FULL 6 

EXERCISE 

Three or more players. 

Players agree on an activity in which receptacles must be 
filled, emptied, and filled again. 

6 See also Chapter XIV, Giving Reality with Objects. 

71 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on showing the variations in weight 

when things are full or empty. 
EXAMPLES: picking apples, filling a treasure box, carrying water. 

VARIATION A 

Handling things of different weights. 

EXAMPLES: shoveling sand, pitching hay, lifting weights. 
VARIATION B 

This variation is to be used after the beginning exercises in 
Where. Where, Who, and What are agreed upon, and the prob- 
lem of varying weights is placed within the agreed context. 



ORIENTATION GAME #3 

One player goes on stage and starts an activity. Other players 
come on, one at a time. This time they know who they are as 
they enter the scene; and the first player (who does not know 
who they are) must accept them and relate to them. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on the activity, with Who as an addi- 
tion but not as the main focus. 

EXAMPLE: Man hanging drapes. Woman enters. Woman: "Now, 
dear, you know that's not the way I want them hung!" Man ac- 
cepts that woman is playing his wife; and he plays accordingly. 
Actors continue to enter, playing the couple's children, the next- 
door neighbor, the family minister, etc. 

EVALUATION 

Did she show or tell us that she was the wife, neighbor, etc.? 
Did they all stay with the activity? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. By this time, ORIENTATION GAME should show the primitive 
beginnings of a scene growing out of the Point of Concentra- 
tion as well as the first sign of relationship rather than mere 
simultaneous activity. 

2. Let the players enjoy ORIENTATION GAME even if the stage is 
somewhat chaotic because of the large group of "characters*' 
in the scene, with everyone moving and talking at once as all 

72 



Orientation 

very earnestly play the game. This childlike stage behavior re- 
leases pleasure and excitement and is essential to the social 
growth of the group (necessary to improvisational theater). 
Refrain (no matter how tempted) from trying to get an or- 
derly scene. Subsequent exercises will slowly do this for the 
student. TWO SCENES in particular (p. 160) will help, 

PART OF A WHOLE 

(Can be used for an orientation game. ) 

One player goes on stage and becomes part of a large animate 
or inanimate moving object. As soon as the nature of the object 
becomes clear to another player, he joins the player on stage and 
becomes another part of the whole. This continues until all the 
audience have participated and are working together to form 
the complete object. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on being a part of a larger object. 
EXAMPLE: One person goes on stage and curls up with arm mov- 
ing from the shoulder like a piston. Another player lines up with 
first player, about two feet from him, and assumes similar posi- 
tion. Two other players join, and four wheels are now moving. 
Other players quickly become whistles, engines, and finally a 
semaphore which stops the train. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. This exercise generates a great deal of spontaneity and fun. 
Every age group responds to it with equal energy. You will 
notice that sound effects arise spontaneously when needed. 

2. Other examples: a statue grouping, a flower, an animal, body 
cells, inside of a clock. Give no examples, however. If the 
game is presented clearly, players will come up with most 
delightful objects. 

Fourth Orientation Session 

THREE CHANGES 

Two rows of players facing each other. 

Each player is to observe the person opposite him and note 

73 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

his dress, hair, etc. Players then turn backs on each other. Each 
player changes three things on his person (e.g., unties his tie, 
parts his hair, unties shoelaces, switches watch from right to 
left arm). 

Players then face each other again. Each player must now 
identify what changes his opposite has made. Change partners 
and ask that players make four changes. Continue to change 
partners after each change until you reach seven eight or more. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

Do not let players know that you plan to increase the changes until 
after the first playing. Many are worried how to find three 
changes. Four or more will create a good deal of excitement. 
This is an excellent exercise for players, taxing their powers of 
making do (improvising) on a simple physical level. Players are 
forced to look at a "barren" land as it were and find things to use 
for the game their eye did not see at first glance. This has been 
called the Survival Game. 



WHAT DO I DO FOR A LIVING? 

Same setting and procedure as in HOW OLD AM i? (see p. 68) . 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on showing what he does for a living. 

EVALUATION 

Is it only through activity that we can show age? Is it only 
through activity that we can show what we do for a living? Does 
the body structure alter in some professions? Is there a difference 
between a salesman and a teacher? Would 20 years as a laborer 
make a man look and act differently than 20 years as a doctor? Is 
it an attitude that creates change? Is it the work environment? 

POINTS OF OBSEKVATION 

1. This questioning in Evaluation should provoke the first in- 
sight into physicalizing character aspects. It should be most 
casual. Because these exercises are done early in the work, do 
not belabor the whole point of character in fact, avoid it until 
it grows naturally out of the acting problems. 

2. If the group is large, two or three players may work simulta- 

74 



Orientation 

neously on stage. However, they are to work separately and 
are not to have any interplay of any kind. 

3. Jokes, "acting," clowning, etc. are evidence of a resistance to 
the problem. 

4. To prevent How, have student-actors sit quietly concentrating 
on the profession each has chosen nothing more. If concen- 
tration is complete, what he needs for the problem will arrive 
for his use. 



MIRROR EXERCISE #3 

(This exercise should be given throughout the training, especially 
before giving CONTRAPUNTAL ARGUMENT, p. 180, those which fol- 
low it, and CHARACTER AGILITY, p. 269. It is the first two-part exer- 
cise given, the first step toward PREOCCUPATION. ) 

Two players. 

Players are seated facing each other. They agree on a simple 
relationship ( employer-employee, husband-wife, teacher-student) 
and choose a topic for discussion or argument. 

After they have begun the discussion, the director calls one 
of them by name. The player called then assumes the facial 
structure of the player opposite him while, at the same time, con- 
tinuing the conversation. He is not to reflect movement and ex- 
pression, as in the earlier MIRROR exercises, but is to try to make 
his face look like the opposite player's. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: player called is to concentrate on re- 
molding his own face inside out to look like the other player's. 
EXAMPLE: A's mouth is thin, his chin recedes, his eyes are 
small. B's lips are full, his jaw juts out, he has large eye sockets. 
When A's name is called, he is to concentrate on restructuring his 
own face to look like B ? s. While continuing the discussion, he 
must work to get his jaw out, his lips full, etc., much like a 
sculptor. 

SIDE COACHING: Rebuild your nose like his. Jawbone! Forehead! 
Change your chin line! Eyeballs! Concentrate on him! On 
upper lip! On jaw line! As you are! (Bring players back and 
forth and to their own faces throughout the exercise. ) 

75 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 
POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Keep changing the "mirror." Do not let the students know 
when their names will be called. Coach to see that the discus- 
sion or argument never stops while players rebuild their faces. 
Remind them to keep away from superficial expressions. They 
must penetrate each others faces. 

2. In selecting teams., ask players to pair off with faces of dissim- 
ilar structure. Short noses with long noses, heavy faces with 
thin ones. Ask students to exaggerate the opposite face. 

3. Some players may be apprehensive about seeing how they 
look to another person. Handle this by stressing the solving of 
the problem and pointing out that exaggeration was asked for. 

4. When this exercise is given this early in the training, resist- 
ances will appear. For the most part, the players will show 
very little physical change and will play the exercise similar to 
MIRROR EXERCISE #1 (reflecting instead of penetrating). How- 
ever, the exercise does have vaue when given here, for it forces 
the players to look at each other and see. 

5. Resistance to such close eye contact with another player this 
early will show itself in irritation with the exercise, almost no 
attempt to change facial structure, and verbalization as to, 
"How is it possible to keep talking?" 

6. When repeated at a later time in the training, the early resist- 
ance to this exercise should be brought to the attention of the 
student-actors. 

7. Here for the first time students are thrown into an explicit 
talking relationship a Who and a What. They should be so 
occupied with penetration, however, that they take the prob- 
lem in stride. 



CONVERSATION WITH INVOLVEMENT 

Two or more players. 

Players agree on simple discussion topic. They then proceed to 
eat and drink a large meal while keeping up a continuous discus- 
sion. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: giving life to the object through the 
smelling, seeing, tasting, etc. 

76 



Orientation 

SIDE COACHING: Taste the food! Feel the texture of the nap- 
kin! What is the temperature of the drinking water? Chew 
your food! Smell the food! 

EVALUATION 

Did the players give sensory reality to the objects? Did they 
show us or tell us? What kind of soup were they drinking? Was 
the meat hot? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. See that the players show relationships ( Who ) . 

2. If resistance to the Point of Concentration is high (with many 
jokes, gags, etc. ) , then the group is not yet ready. Leave this 
problem and come back to it at another time. 

3. Do not allow players to make a situation out of this exercise. 
If this occurs, they "perform" the situation and resist working 
on the problem (objects). 

4. Make a plan of the immediate environment. 

5. The scene can be broken down into three or more parts (e.g., 
first taste and smell, then feeling objects, then seeing, etc.). 

6. This is the second two-part problem. 

7. Use all senses together. 



Fifth Orientation Session 

INVOLVEMENT WITH LARGE OBJECTS 

Single player. 

Player becomes involved with a large entangling object. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on the selected object. 

EXAMPLES: spider web, boa constrictor, tree branches in forest 
or jungle, octopus, parachute, man-eating plant. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

Watch the wording when stating the POC to be certain that the 
player's concentration is on the object and not on disentangling 
himself from the object. This is an important difference and one 
that comes up continuously throughout the work. 

77 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

DRAWING OBJECTS GAME 

Two teams. (To first be used sometimes in Orientation. ) 

Players divide into two teams. Each team sets up a table with 
plenty of paper and pencils (in the event one of the pencil points 
breaks during the excitement of playing the game) at an equal 
distance from the group leader. The group leader has a prepared 
list of objects such as Christmas tree, window, cow, train, air- 
plane, cat, mouse, apple, house-any object that has an outstand- 
ing characteristic, One player from each team comes to the center, 
The group leader exposes only one of the objects to the team 
members, who then quickly run back to their team and draw the 
object for their teams, who are all gathered around trying to iden- 
tify it. As soon as any member of a team recognizes the object 
drawn, it is called out by name. The team naming the most ob- 
jects first wins the game. The game continues until each mem- 
ber of each team has had a chance of drawing the object. 

The ability to draw has nothing to do with this game, for it is 
a game of selectivity that shows which students can quickly pick 
from their "file" to make a communication. In fact, artists within 
a group are often less facile. This game can be repeated at inter- 
vals making the objects more and more difficult. A variation of 
this game, using abstractions, can be found in Neva L. Boyd's 
Handbook of Games (p. 101). 

TRAPPED 

Single player. 

Player chooses a Where from which he is trying to escape. 

EXAMPLES : caught in bear trap, tree trunk, elevator, etc. 



PHYSICALIZING AN OBJECT 

Single player. 

Player selects an object, animate, or inanimate, which he han- 
dles and uses. He is to communicate to the audience the life or 
movement of this object. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: giving life or movement to the object. 
EXAMPLE: If the object is a bowling ball, the student actor 

78 



Orientation 

throws the ball down the alley, and the audience must know 
what happens to the bowling ball once it has left his hands. 
Other objects which can be used are: trying to hold a fish, play- 
ing a pinball machine, playing billiards, flying a kite, playing 
with a yo-yo. 

SIDE COACHING: What is the ball doing? Give life to the fish! 

EVALUATION 

Did they physicalize the object? Did they show or tell? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

Be careful that this exercise does not become watching a sport. 
The distinction between giving life to the object and manipulat- 
ing the object is subtle. Be careful in presentation and side coach- 
ing not to tell student-actors How. 



MAINTAINING SURFACE HEIGHTS 

Single player. 

Player establishes a surface (table, counter top, etc.) on which 
he puts many small objects, setting them down with strong im- 
pact. The objects may be books, pencils, glasses, etc. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on keeping the height of the surface 
stable and constant while setting various objects on it. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

Resistance to the POC will show itself by players piling objects 
one upon the other instead of placing them singly on the surface. 



BEGIN-AND-END WITH OBJECTS 

Single player. 

Player selects a small object such as a pack of cigarettes. 

PABT A 

Teacher-director instructs player to perform a simple action 
with the object ( e.g., taking a cigarette from the pack) . 

79 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 
PART B 

Teacher-director instructs player to repeat the action, this 
time calling out "Begin!" each time he makes fresh contact with 
the object and "End!" when each detail is completed. 

PART G 

Teacher-director instructs player to repeat the action as be- 
fore, this time doing it as fast as he can and without being told 
to begin and end. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on the object. 

EXAMPLE OF PART B: He touches the pack: "Begin!" He grasps 
the pack: "End!" He touches a cigarette: "Begin!" He grasps the 
cigarette: "End!" He begins to remove the cigarette from the 
pack: "Begin!" He removes the cigarette from the pack: "End!" 
He moves the cigarette toward his mouth: "Begin!" He grasps the 
cigarette with his mouth: "End!" 

EVALUATION 

To actor: Which of the three actions had the most reality for 
you? To audience: Which of the three actions looked the most 
real? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. If Part B is done correctly, each detail will be like an indi- 
vidual no-motion frame within a strip of movie film. You 
should coach the student to do his beginning and ending with 
great bursts of energy. 

2. The third action (Part C) will be much clearer and sharper 
than the first (Part A). The student's handling of the object 
will have reality. 

3. This exercise is especially helpful in developing sharp detail in 
handling objects and should be repeated frequently through- 
out training. A larger variation of the exercise, where the same 
technique is used to bring out detail and the intent of a scene 
appears on p. 135. 

4. The reality the audience sees is what must be accepted in the 
Evaluation. When an actor is used to "acting," that often be- 
comes his reality; and the audience is his checkpoint against 
this. 

80 



Orientation 

5. This exercise is related to SPACE SUBSTANCE and should be done 
prior to it, 

SPACE SUBSTANCE 

After the preliminary exercises in object involvement have 
been used, SPACE SUBSTANCE should be introduced and repeated 
for at least eight more sessions as a warm-up. It is valuable for 
freshening up groups at all times. Since there are many possible 
variations of this exercise, what to use in subsequent sessions 
should be determined by the teacher-director. The oftener it is 
used, the more perfect student-actors will become in creating, 
finding, and building "objects out of thin air" and "letting things 
happen/* 

A. EXPLORATION 

Large group (no audience necessary). 

Ask student-actors to move around the stage, giving substance 
to space as they go. They are not to feel or present space as 
though it were a known material (water, mud, molasses, etc.) 
but are to explore it as a totally new and unknown substance. 

SIDE COACHING: Move through the substance and make contact 
with it. Dont give it a name it is what it is! Use your whole 
body to make contact! Feel it against your cheeks! 'Your nose! 
Jour knees! Jour hips! 

If players tend to use hands only, have them keep their arms 
close to their bodies so as to move as a single mass. 
Keep side-coaching: Push the substance around. Explore it! 
You never felt it before. Make a tunnel! Move back into the 
space your body has shaped. Shake it up! Make the substance 
fly. Stir it up! Make it ripple. 

B. SUPPORT AND EFFORT 
Large group with audience. 

Start players walking around stage, pushing through the space 
substance. 

SIDE COACHING: Let the space substance support you. Lean on it. 
Rest on it. Let it hold your head. Your chin. Jour arms. 'Your 
eyeballs. Your upperlip, etc. 

81 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

After the players are in motion and responding to the prob- 
lem, give a new understanding to the space substance they are 
contacting. 

SIDE COACHING: You are holding yourself up. You would fly 
into a thousand pieces if you quit holding yourself up. You 
are hanging on to your arms. Your mouth. Your forehead. (Call 
out the various parts of the body that the students hold rigid, ) 
Now have the students go back to letting the space substance 
"support" them. Change back and forth until the student- 
actors obviously feel the difference. While calling out parts 
of the body, help the students to release muscle holds. (One 
student who customarily had a tight expression on his face 
that gave him what might be called a "mean" look first be- 
came aware of his rigidity through this exercise. ) 

EVALUATION 

To players: how did you feel when space was supporting 
you? When you were your own support? 

To audience: did you notice a difference between support and 
no support in the way players walked and looked? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. When players hold themselves together, are their own gravity 
line, so to speak, some shrink up, some seem to be afraid of 
falling, while others appear anxious, lonely, and still others 
look aggressive. In fact, many "character qualities" appear. 
When, on the other hand, the players lean on space, an expan- 
sion and fullness can be noted as they move through the en- 
vironment. Smiling faces, peacefulness, and an air of gentle- 
ness appear. It is as if they know the environment will sup- 
port them if they allow it to. 

2. "Put your signature in space" is a good side-coaching remark 
to place the player in the environment. The object is for the 
player to leave a mark in space a footprint, the outline of his 
head, etc. and then see that mark. 

C. SHAPING SPACE 

Single players. 

Ask players one by one to make any object they wish out of 

82 



Orientation 

the space substance. In some cases, they can be told to "find" the 
object rather than "make" it. Try both ways. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to build an object from space substance. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

Most players gather the space substance and handle it as they 
would any other pliable mass. With confidence and certainty the 
student builds his object with incredible exactness and reality. 
Where in the earlier creating of objects only a few students 
achieved reality, this exercise is successful with almost all. Per- 
haps this is so because the player does not construct (invent) 
the object from the imagination but discovers it as it comes up 
out of space. 

Next ask each player to pull the space substance around as 
though it could not be separated from itself. This sometimes re- 
sults in the presentation of elastic or ribbony material. Side-coach 
the players to experiment with it. 

D. ENSEMBLE SPACE-SHAPING 
Two or more players. 

Ask players to build one object animate or inanimate, together 
out of space substance and then use it. Then have the players 
pull the space substance about, keeping it attached in space, 
swing on it, let it pull them up, wind it around each other, etc. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Players move out of the immediate environment with ease 
after this exercise. ( In manipulating space substance, a group 
of players once ended up doing a maypole dance, and the re- 
ality was so sharp for the players that when the ribbons be- 
came tangled, the student audience "saw it." 

2. Be certain the players are making contact with the space sub- 
stance and not imposing upon it. 

E. TRANSFORMATION OF OBJECTS 
Large group of players. 

First person creates an object and passes it on to the next 
player. This next player is to handle the object until it changes 
shape and then pass it on. The exercise differs from TRANSFORM- 

83 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

ING THE OBJECT (p. 214) in that here the player is not to make a 
story or situation around the object but is simply to handle it 
until something happens. If nothing happens, he is to pass it to 
the next player and so on down the line. For instance, if a player 
is handed a yo-yo and uses it, it might transform itself into a bird 
or an accordion. Following this: two players create together (as 
in ENSEMBLE SP ACE- SHAPING ) a continuous flow of changing 
objects. 

This is a tricky exercise and must be clearly understood by 
the players. They are not to change the object it either trans- 
forms itself, or they do nothing about it. No associations should 
be used to lead to a story. If a player is handed a comb, for in- 
stance, he is not to make a mirror and use the comb. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

A great deal of excitement is felt if an object seems to transform 
itself. When a student has this experience, it should be pointed 
out to him that this is exactly what POC must do for players. 

F. SPACE AS ANOTHER ELEMENT 

Any number of players. Do not use this exercise until space sub- 
stance has been fully explored. 

Tell players the space they are moving through is wind, water, 
mud, etc. 

SIDE COACHING: Jour hair is floating. Jour ankles are floating. 
Jour spine is floating. Use side coaching appropriate for any 
suggested substance. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Exercise F. is excellent for rehearsing a formal play which has 
scenes set in unusual atmospheric conditions. An underwater 
scene with "fishes" swimming about pearl divers and an octo- 
pus fight can be given great reality to the delight of the 
audience. 

2. All these exercises help the student-actor feel the impact of 
space upon his body. They help him penetrate space, mold it, 
define it, and move freely about. 

84 



Orientation 

NO-MOTION WARM-UP 

Any number of players. 

The following exercise should be given just prior to NO MOTION 
(p. 189). It should also be given in conjunction with SPACE SUB- 
STANCE, however, and so is presented at this point in the text. 

Ask players to raise their arms up and down. Now ask them to 
concentrate on No Motion while continuing to raise their arms 
up and down in the normal way. Use the image of a flip-book 
a series of stills which when riffled create a moving picture. 
Now ask them to see the series of "stills" the raising of their arms 
has left behind in space. When they grasp this, go on to the same 
approach to walking, climbing stairs, ladders, etc. Properly exe- 
cuted this exercise gives the players a physical feeling and un- 
derstanding of keeping out of their own way. By concentrating 
on No Motion hands, legs, etc. move effortlessly without con- 
scious volition. This can be used as a physicalization to show how, 
with lack of interference, the POC can work for us. As one player 
remarked, "It is as if someone else is maving us about!" Another 
player said, "It's like being on a vacation." 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on the still moments between the 
movement. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

Homework for this exercise will be useful and help accelerate 
workshop training. ( 1 ) Ask students to take a few minutes out of 
each day to catch a moving scene and see it as a momentary still 
picture: a street view; an office; an ambulance racing past; a 
moment of themselves and another person in some emotional 
situation. (2) Ask students to keep a "log" of their daily experi- 
encejust a simple word or two set down in a notebook at the 
moment of something happening. For instance, if a person is irri- 
tated because he can't find his shoes, at that moment he writes 
down "irritated shoes, 9:30." If an hour later he runs for the bus 
and misses it, he may write "out of breath missed bus, 10:30." 
Each individual, if he does the exercise, will intuitively know 
what moments to log. 

This homework does not bring up introspection or subjectivity 
in the student's work. On the contrary, it gives him an extraor- 

85 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

dinary sense of his environment and himself within it. Like the 
POC in NO MOTION, it gives him a sharp perception of the moving 
world about him. Immediacy and brevity are necessary, however. 
If the student makes an elaborate record as in a diary, he will 
change the exercise into something else. Wordiness will carry 
everyone into emotionalism, judgments, sentiments, withdrawal. 
Wordiness will take the person beyond the moment of the event 
and expose him to subjectivity and stale experience. 

PENETRATION 

Any number of players. 

While the following exercise could be integrated as part of the 
side coaching during certain of the sense exercises, it might be 
useful as a special warm-up during Orientation sessions. Note 
that this is not a complete exercise, it is simply a suggestion for 
emphasizing an important part of playing. 

Give the POC to teams and tell them they may do what they 
wish with it before the audience. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to penetrate the environment. Ask stu- 
dents to think of their sensory equipment as an extended tool 
something that can move out, cut through, penetrate. 

SIDE COACHING: Penetrate that color! Penetrate that taste! Let 
your ear penetrate the sound. 

ADD A PART 

(Can be used as an orientation game) 
Whole group. 

A player goes on stage and places an object which is a part of 
a larger object. Each successive player adds a part until everyone 
has had a turn. 

EXAMPLES: The first player places a steering wheel on stage. 
The second player adds a windshield, the third player adds a back 
seat. And so on. 

The first player places a window frame, the, second player adds a 
curtain, etc. 

86 



Orientation 

ADD AN OBJECT WHERE #1 
Whole group. 

First player goes on stage and places an object in the general 
environment around which a Where can be built. Each successive 
player uses all the objects already placed and then adds one 
himself. 

EXAMPLE: First player places a wash basin on stage, second 
player adds a bath tub. And so on. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

This exercise is a preliminary step to Where. 



Summary 

Continue to urge student-actors to make a close, conscious 
study of the physical world around them. Encourage them to ob- 
serve how things taste, feel, smell, sound, and look. Open ob- 
servation of the world around him is a necessary tool for the im- 
provisational actor. 

Should students lose detail and generalize objects and relation- 
ships at any time during their training, it would be well to stop 
the class for a moment and interject one of the exercises pre- 
viously covered in Orientation. Almost every one of them are use- 
ful for warm-ups at all times. 

The teacher-director may also suggest that students take the 
sense games home. While the exercises should not be done out- 
side the workshops, the games can provide much fun and fulfill- 
ment for the student-actor. 

Pleasure and enthusiasm must set the tone throughout these 
exercises. If students are apprehensive, anxious, and constantly 
looking to see if they are doing "right," then there has been some 
error in presentation. In his urgency, the teacher may be a pedant 
rather than the leader or guide of the group. He may be imposing 
his own frame of reference on "results." He may be giving too 
many problems in one session and not allowing students to have 
the experience of "flow" as they would from a game. 

Try to always begin sessions with a game and to end them, if 
possible, with an exercise which will give the players a non-verbal 

87 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

summation of the earlier problems. ORIENTATION GAME, ADD A 
PART, PART OF THE WHOLE are just such exercises. They quickly 
show the teacher to what extent the earlier exercises have been 
organically integrated by the students. If clowning, "acting," and 
exhibitionism persist, then it is obvious that involvement with or 
understanding of the Point of Concentration has not yet taken 
place. 

Do not use exercises involving single players until after the 
student-audience is "part of the game." This should take place by 
the end of the second orientation session. If not, delay singles. 



88 



IV. Where 

Introduction 

The Three Environments 

Many actors find it difficult to "reach beyond their noses" and 
must be freed for a wider physical relationship with the environ- 
ment. For purposes of clarification, three environments should 
always be kept in mind: immediate, general, larger. 1 

The immediate environment is that area close upon us the 
table where we are eating, with its food, utensils, ashtrays, etc. 
The general environment is the area in which the table is placed 
the room, restaurant, etc., with its doors, windows, and other 
features. The larger environment is the area beyond the space 
outside the window, the trees in the distance, the birds in the 
sky, etc. 

All the exercises in environment (Where) are designed to 
awaken the players to all three areas and to help them move out, 
penetrate, and work comfortably. 

Involvement With Where 

The first where exercise will provide the student-actor with 
the basic structure he will use for all subsequent game exercises. 
It is the "field" upon which he plays. It brings him the full stage 
environment and shows him how he must play within it and let 



1 See SPACE SUBSTANCE, p. 81. 

89 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

the people the objects, and the events he meets within this en- 
vironment work for him. 

Because of the importance of thoroughly familiarizing the stu- 
dent-actor especially interested in scene improvisation with this 
basic form, it is wise to spend a good deal of time on this prob- 
lem and the variations and additions suggested in the text. (Do 
not use every exercise in Where before going to other parts of the 
book. Many of the exercises in the latter part of this chapter are 
for very advanced students only. ) 

For the player in formal theater, Where exercises serve to 
place him inside the stage set where he will understand that stage 
movement is organic rather than remembered. 



First Where Session 

Establishing Focus on Where, Who and What 

Prior to presenting the WHERE EXERCISE, hold a discussion 
with the group to establish focus on the primary (Where) and 
secondary (Who and What) Points of Concentration. 

Begin by discussing Where (relationships with physical ob- 
jects ) . 

How do you 'know where you are? If you get no response, try 
a different approach. 

Is it true that you always know where you are? "Sometimes 
you don't know where you are.** 

True, you may be in an unfamiliar place. How do you know 
it's unfamiliar? How do you know when you are in a familiar 
place? How do you know where you are at any moment of the 
day? "You just know." "You can always tell." "There are signs." 

How do you know when you are in the kitchen? "You can 
smell the cooking." 

If there were nothing cooking, how would you know? "By 
where it is." 

What do you mean? "By where it is in the house." 

If every room in your house were moved around, would you 
still know which room was the kitchen? "Of course!" 

How? "By the things in the room." 

What things? "The stove. The refrigerator." 

90 



Where 

Would you know a kitchen if it had no stove or refrigerator in 
it? If it were in the jungle, for instance? "Yes." 

How? "It would be a place where food is prepared." 

And so, through discussion and the presentation of exacting 
questions, the student-actors conclude that "we know where we 
are by the physical objects around us." When this basic premise 
has been agreed upon, become more specific. 

What is the difference between an office and a den? "An office 
has a desk and a telephone." 

Isn't this also true of most dens? "Yes." 

What might a den have that an office would not have? "Photo- 
graphs, rugs, lamps." 

Couldnt those be in an office? 

On a large blackboard, set up two columns under the head- 
ings of den and office. Now ask the group to call out items which 
might be found in each place, listing them under the proper 
heading as they are mentioned. Eventually, it will become ap- 
parent that differences do exist; for, while both locations might 
have a desk, a water cooler and intercom system are more likely 
to be found in an office than in a den. 

Continue along this same line. How do you know the differ- 
ence between a park and a garden? The more detailed these dis- 
cussions become, the more your students will realize that refined 
selection (capturing the essence) adds brilliance to the theater 
communication. 

When the Where discussion has been completed, the Who 
and What points should be covered rather quickly. 

In Who, we are interested in establishing human relationships 
in encouraging the player to realize whom he is working with 
and to get some understanding of their mutual roles. 

Do you usually know the person in the same room with you? 
Would you know a stranger from your brother? Jour uncle from 
the corner grocer? "Of course!" 

When riding on a bus, can you tell the difference between two 
school friends and a mother and child? Between two strangers 
and a husband and wife? "Yes." 

How can you tell? "You can tell by the way they act together." 

What do you mean, "by the way they act together"? The 

91 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

youngest actor replies, "Mothers are bossy . . . sweethearts look 
silly . . . husbands and wives argue." Sad commentary, indeed. 

In discussing this further, the students will agree that people 
show us who they are through their behavior (as opposed to tell- 
ing us). When they have arrived at this point, bring in the fact 
that actors, to communicate to their audience, must show who 
they are through their relationships with their fellow players. 

When Who has been covered, move on to the last of the 
three Points of Concentration. What is the actor's reason for being 
on stage. 

Why do you usually go into a kitchen? "To make a meal." "To 
get a glass of water." "To wash the dishes." 

Why do you go into a bedroom? "To sleep." To change 
clothes." 

The living room? "To read." "To watch TV." 

As the questioning progresses, the students will agree that we 
usually have a reason for being where we are and for doing what 
we do for handling certain physical objects, for going into cer- 
tain places or rooms. And so must the actor have his reasons 
for handling certain props on stage, for being in a certain place, 
for acting in a certain way. When Where, Who, and What have 
been thoroughly covered, move into the WHERE EXERCISE. 



WHERE EXERCISE 2 

Special Materials 

1. Number of small blackboards (may be painted plywood) and 
chalk. Paper can be substituted, but blackboards are desirable 
for younger actors. 

2. An easel or stand for placement of an onstage blackboard. 

3. A few chairs. 

Two players (number to be increased after second or third session) 
Each team of two is supplied with a blackboard and chalk. 
They then agree on a place (Where) and plot out a floorplan of 
it on the blackboard (i.e., if the team chose a living room, they 
would plot out the sofa chairs, coffee table, ashtrays, fireplace, 

2 See ONCE UPON A TIME, p. 307, for the children's version of introduc- 
tion to Where. 

92 



Where 




CHAIR 





COUCH 



LAMP 



REFRIGERATOR 



O O 
O O 



STOVE 




SINK 



BED 




SINK& DRAIN- 
BOARD 



TOILET 



n 



O 



TABLES 



HAND PROPS 



BATH TUB 




TABLE WITH 
HAND PROPS 



O 



STRAIGHT 
CHAIR 



BUSHES TREE PATH, ROAD 



DRINKING 
FOUNTAIN 



/BOOKCASE, 
/SHELVES, ETC. 




WINDOW 




'PICTURE, 
/MIRROR, ETC. 





# I Suggested floorplan symbols 



SWINGING 
DOOR 



93 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 




m 

TELEVISION RUG 



DOOR ARM CHAIR 





E3 
COUCH D 

# 2 Building the floorplan through suggestions 

etc,). Each player should be encouraged to contribute a share 
of the items, using the standard floorplan symbols (see illus, #1. 
When the first team has completed their floorplan, their black- 
board should be propped on an easel facing the stage, where the 
onstage players can see it easily. The teacher-director should tell 
them that they need not remember any of the items but are to 
refer to the floorplan as often as they wish during the exercise. 

94 



Where 

This is a deliberate step to ease players from remembering (blank- 
ing the mind) and will give a great sense of relief if stressed. 
"Don't keep it in your heads, refer to the blackboard!" It is also 
another step in helping the student relax his cerebral hold on him- 
self. 

They are now to play within their Where, establishing a sim- 
ple Who relationship between them such as two friends, a hus- 
band and wife, a brother and sister, etc. and deciding upon a 
simple What (reason for being there). This Who, Where, and 
What should also be written on the bottom of the floorplan, along 
with the Point of Concentration. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: (1) The players must show where they 
are by making physical contact with all the objects drawn on 
the floorplan. ( The only physical objects actually needed for 
on the stage will be chairs. The other objects are simply rep- 
resented by chalk marks on the blackboard and must be cre- 
ated on stage by the students as they go along.) In other 
words, each player must in some way handle or touch on 
stage everything drawn on the blackboard, sharing with the 
audience his reason for using each one. (2) To show Where 
(as above) through Who and What (relationship and ac- 
tivity). 

EXAMPLE: It is probably wise to demonstrate the exercise to 
the class prior to their involvement with the problem. The 
teacher-director should spend whatever time is necessary on this 
introduction. Remember, drawing the floorplan is the beginning 
of the student-actor's disciplined focus on or awareness of detail. 
Through it, he learns to avoid generalities. Don't rush the learning 
process! 

Set up a large blackboard. Have the class agree on a Where. 
Now have each member of the group call out an item to be placed 
on the floorplan. Draw them in as they are called out (compare 
illus. #2). When the floorplan is completed to everyone's satis- 
faction, ask the question: Who shall we have in the Where? When 
they have decided, select two players to go on stage and play the 
Who. Now ask the final question: What are they doing there? 
When this has been agreed upon, show the class how the floor- 
plan works. With the help of the two players, walking through 

95 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

the scene and using the props, the exercise should become clear 
to them. Encourage the rest of the class to watch carefully. 

Are they sharing what they are doing with the audience? Are 
they showing and not telling us where they are? Do they both 
handle the objects the same way? Did they walk through tables? 3 
When the total class is involved to the teacher's satisfaction, 
then it is time to pass out the individual blackboards or paper 
and get to work on the problem. 



EVALUATION 



Was concentration complete or incomplete? Did the team 
solve the acting problem? Did we know Where they were? Did 
they handle all the objects? Did they refer to the floorplan. When 
necessary? Did they talk about using the objects ("I think 111 
close the window" etc. ) , or did they use them? 

Check the actors' floorplan against what the audience ob- 
served (compare illus. #3). In the early stages of the exercise, 
the players will often be confused and will not use all the objects. 
As the exercise is repeated, this confusion will be overcome. Just 
coach them to use everything on stage and keep reminding them 
to refer to their blackboard as often as they wish. 

Did they handle (contact) their objects so that we could un- 



STUDENT AUDIENCE 



ORIGINAL STAGE SET 




# 3 Players' original floorplan compared to 

audience's floorplan drawn from players* 

use of WHERE 



3 For the first session, put all the players in the same Where and have 
the group as a whole choose Who. 

96 



Where 

derstand What they were doing? Try to determine what actions 
were missed. Encourage volunteers to demonstrate how various 
objects might have been handled. Try to show them the differ- 
ences in object handling (e.g., the difference in weight and con- 
struction between a book and a magazine). If SPACE SUBSTANCE 
EXERCISE has been done frequently up to this point, creating ob- 
jects will be very sharply detailed. 

Could they have used their objects in a more interesting man- 
ner? Are hands the only way of touching objects? Is it necessary 
to handle (contact) objects in a pedestrian manner? Objects 
can be fallen against, leaned on, etc. Noses can be pressed 
against windows as easily as hands can open them. Could the 
bottles behind the bar be contacted? "A drunk could fall on 
them." "He could have a fight with the bartender." As much as 
possible, the teacher should let the students discover principles 
for themselves. As a warm-up exercise select a specific object 
and have single players use it. Evaluation would then be on the 
variations possible with the simplest of objects, (see USING OBJECTS 

TO EVOLVE SCENES, p. 212.) 

Did they show us Where they were by the use of the physical 
objects, or did they tell us? Did they show first and then tell? An 
action usually precedes dialogue. 

Did they share what they were doing with us? This explora- 
tion into "sharing with the audience" will lead to a discussion 
of stage arrangements and self-blocking. Ask individual students 
to go on stage and demonstrate other ways of clarifying action. 

Was the stage setting interesting? Would the fireplace have 
given more room if it had been stage right? Encourage them 
to think in terms of rooms they are familiar with. This will sim- 
plify working on floorplans and will enable them to spread the 
props and furniture over the entire stage area. 

When a satisfactory evaluation has been made of the first 
team's work, have another team go through their scene. Since 
the evaluation helps both the team on stage and the members of 
the audience, each team will be helped by the past evaluations 
of the other teams. 

After the second team has worked, begin their evaluation by 
asking: did they benefit from our discussion with the first team? 



97 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 
POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. In developing floorplans, it is important that each team 
member have a piece of chalk and be encouraged to make 
use of it, for this allows even the most timid person to con- 
tribute at least one object to the floorplan. This is the organic 
beginning of group involvement. 

2. Introduced here for the first time, the floorplan immediately 
becomes an integral part of all future exercises. It is a visual- 
ization of the actor's Where. It is important that the student- 
actor's initial floorplan be compiled correctly and purpose- 
fully. For this reason, the teacher-director would do well to 
wander from group to group during the first planning session, 
offering suggestions and encouragement wherever needed. 
At first, the student-actors will place their items haphazardly, 
some putting too many on the board and some too few. As 
time goes on, they will become more selective and will 
choose and place items with an eye toward the total stage 
picture. 

3. Before beginning a problem, be sure that the completed 
blackboard floorplan is in full view of the players on stage. 
Encourage them to refer to it freely and often. This gradual 
release from remembering will allow them to concentrate on 
the handling of the objects themselves, eliminating the need 
for remembering their location on stage. Always check the 
audience's perceptions against the actual floorplan after each 
scene. 

4. Constantly remind the actors to show where they are by 
using all the physical objects on the stage. Through this 
coaching, the actor's Point of Concentration will become 
clear to him. 

5. When talking is mumbled or the actors hide in bunches 
outside the line of vision, side-coach: Share the stage picture! 
Share your voice with your audience! In almost every in- 
stance, students will respond. 

6. These early scenes will almost certainly contain too much 
talking in the place of action telling instead of showing. 
Relationships will be sketchy, object contact will be pedes- 
trian, "sharing" will be negligible, concentration will be 

98 



Where 

sporadic. This will all be remedied with time, discovery, and 
coaching. 

7. To avoid early playwriting, do not allow the players to plan 
a situation. Observe the teams closely during preparation of 
the exercise. If How they will manipulate the set is discussed, 
if scene is planned rather than What, if Point of Concentra- 
tion (Where) is not observed, then the exercise becomes an 
unspontaneous, rehearsed activity. 4 Keep What a simple 
physical activity between players. 

8. Have the student-actors add more and more detail to their 
floorplans each time the exercise is given. Pictures, candy 
dishes, ashtrays, radios all should be included. As they 
move around the room, channeling their energies to solve 
the problem, self-blocking will appear, awareness of fellow 
players will emerge, and they will gain entrance into their 
full stage environment. 

9. Be sure that contact is made by each player with all the ob- 
jects during this early period. Later, they no longer need to 
touch every object on stage indeed, it will interfere with 
their work. But the discovery of this freedom and subse- 
quent leveling off rests entirely with the teacher's judgment. 

10. The Where, Who, and What, Point of Concentration, and 
additional information as the scenes become more complex 
should be written at the bottom of each floorplan. A file of 
completed floorplans is useful for reference when planning a 
performance. 

11 . In the first few sessions of Where, have students use familiar 
interiors such as rooms in a house, offices, etc. 

12. Players, being more on their own in these exercises than 
heretofore, may pull away from each other and work the 
POC separately although in the same situation. To avoid this, 
have the group show us Where through Who (relationship) 
and What (activity). If, for example, Where is a living-room 
and Who girl and boy friend, objects in the general environ- 
ment might be used in many ways. The books in the book- 
case might be taken to read poetry to the girl friend. The 
girl friend might use the chair by coming over and putting 



4 See discussion of How, p. 34. 

99 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

B, 





E. 







(FINAL SET) 
# 4 Additional information on floorplans 

her arms around her boy friend who is sitting in the chair. 
It is the same problem of letting the POC move the players 
rather than imposing anything upon it. This is the only road 
to true scene improvisation, for it is only through relationship 
that stage action appears. 

13. If players persist in using a built-in activity when doing 
Where, they are resisting the POG and relationship. For in- 
stance, if a bedroom is chosen as the Where and the players 
are housecleaning, this then becomes a built-in or non-chal- 

100 



Where 

lenging use of Where. To avoid this, suggest a problem 
where the players use a What more or less unrelated to the 
objects within the Where. The bedroom could be a place 
where two students are studying. A machine shop, for in- 
stance, could have two players playing checkers on their 
lunch hour. These unrelated activities (What) then keep 
total absorption with the game, and the preoccupation (FOG) 
getting to the objects becomes the energy source. 

THE WHERE GAME 

(This is similar to the ORIENTATION GAME, but now the players 
concentrate on Where rather than on activity. ) 

Player goes on stage and shows Where through the physical 
use of the objects. When another player thinks he knows Where 
the first player is, he assumes a Who, enters the Where, and de- 
velops a relationship with the Where and the other player. Other 
players join them, one at a time, in a similar fashion. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on Where. 

EXAMPLE: Player goes on stage and shows the audience rows 
and rows of bookshelves. Second player enters and stands behind 
counter. He begins stamping cards which he removes from inside 
cover of books. Third player enters, pushes cart to shelves, and 
begins stacking books. Other players enter the library Where. 
Other settings for WHERE GAME: train station, supermarket, air- 
port, hospital waiting room, street scene, beach, schoolroom, art 
gallery, restaurant. 



Second Where Session 

The following WHAT'S BEYOND? A, B, and c exercises should 
be given in one session if possible. While the first handling of the 
exercise by new students will be primitive for the most part, repe- 
tition at intervals throughout the training period (e.g., after 
WORD GAME, during problems of Emotion) wiU bring added rich- 
ness to the student-actor's work. When two more WHAT'S BEYOND 
exercises, D and E, are given later, repeat A, B, and c. These exer- 
cises heighten exits and entrances. 

101 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

WHAT'S BEYOND? A 

Single player. 

Player is either to leave or enter a room (or both). Stage is 
used only to walk through; no action is to take place other than 
what is necessary to communicate to the audience what room he 
has come from and what room he is going to. (Suggest that stage 
is simply an empty hallway leading to and from doors.) 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to show what room he has come from, 

what room he is going to. 

EXAMPLE i (done by an adult): The character walks briskly 
on stage, wiping her hands on what seems to be a towel that she 
is holding. She unties something around her waist and hangs it 
on the doorknob. She moves across stage, stopping momentarily 
to take what appears to be a hat, puts it on her head, glances into 
a mirror, and briskly exits out another door. 

EXAMPLE ii (done by a 12-year-old): A character comes walking 
on stage, yawning and stretching. As he walks across the stage, 
he is slowly unbuttoning and easing out of what seems to be a 
loose-fitting garment. He rubs his tongue over his teeth as he 
exits out another door. 

EVALUATION 

What room did he come from? What room did he go to? Did 
he show us or tell us? Is it possible to show What's Beyond with- 
out some onstage activity? Keep the evaluation on the Point of 
Concentration only! We are not interested in anything but what 
was in the area the actor came from and what is in the area he is 
going to. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. After the players have worked within this "room" situation, 
the exercise may be given againthis time with the player 
entering or leaving a specific location ( such as a forest clear- 
ing, a department store, etc. ) . 

2. WHAT'S BEYOND should be added to the floorplan. 

3. As in HOW OLD AM i? REPEAT and WHAT DO i DO FOR A LIVING? 
REPEAT, try this exercise and the subsequent WHAT'S BEYOND? 
at a later date using the same suggested technique to see how 

102 



Where 

much of WHAT'S BEYOND can be shown with the greatest of 
subtlety by 'letting it happen/' 



WHAT'S BEYOND? B 
Single player. 

Played same as WHAT'S BEYOND? A. 

POINT OF CONCENTKATION: suggest what went on in the place (off 
stage) the player has just left. 

EVALUATION 

What happened off stage? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

If this exercise is given early in the Where session, the actors 
should keep it simple (e.g., a simple activity such as shoveling 
snow off the driveway). When repeated later on in the training, 
the offstage scene should then be based on a relationship with 
other people (e.g., a quarrel with a sweetheart, a theft of a 
purse, a death scene, etc. ) . 

WHAT'S BEYOND? C 

Single player. 

Exact reversal of WHAT'S BEYOND? B. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on what the player is going to do in the 
other room ( off stage ) . 

EVALUATION 

What will happen off stage? 



WHERE WITH HELP 

Two players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Players do scene with 
Contact, helping each other solve the problem. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to help each other make contact with 
everything in the Where while playing out Who and What. 

103 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 
EVALUATION 

Did they make contact with the objects through who they 
were and what they were doing, or did they make contact at ran- 
dom just for the sake of "touching" the objects? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Tell players to use a great deal of detail in drawing their 
floorplans (e.g., doors, windows, rugs). Keep What very sim- 
ple with no particular tension between players (e.g., in a 
beauty shop getting hair done, in a living room just watching 

TV, etc.). 

2. Players are to keep their own floorplan on stage for reference. 
Another floorplan is put on blackboard for audience. If no 
blackboard is available, an extra floorplan without statement 
of relationships or What should be passed around to audi- 
ence. 

3. Exercise is over the minute both players have made contact 
with everything in the Where. It may be necessary to call 
"One minute!" to end the exercise, although in some instances 
the exercise will end naturally by itself. 



WHERE WITH OBSTACLES 

Same team as in WHERE WITH HELP 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. This time each player is 
to try to keep the other from contacting all the objects. 

SIDE COACHING; Work on the problem! 

EVALUATION 

Which exercise gave Where more reality helping the other 
actor or putting obstacles in his way? Which gave Who more 
reality? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Stress to players that they are to make contact with objects 
through the What and Who of the scene. They are not just to 
dash around touching objects. Their actions must come out of 
a relationship. 

104 



Where 

2. Watch to see how relationships are strengthened. This exer- 
cise is similar to GIVE AND TAKE (p. 230). If heightened reality 
and relationships are not evident, continue the simple Where 
for a few more sessions. 

3. Note that players must watch each other most intently so 
as to solve the problem. 



Third Where Session 

FINDING OBJECTS IN THE IMMEDIATE ENVIRONMENT 

Three or more players. 

A simple stage relationship and a likely discussion which 
keeps everyone involved are agreed upon. This could be a com- 
mittee meeting, office workers, family counsel, etc. During the 
course of this meeting, each player is to handle dozens of objects 
in the immediate environment. They do not plan ahead what 
these objects will be. 

POINTS OF CONCENTRATION: on receiving the objects the agreed 
environment has to offer (letting the environment work for 
the players ) . 

SIDE COACHING: Take your time! Don't meddle, let the objects ap- 
pear! Keep the discussion going! Work on the problem! Keep 
in contact with each other! 

EVALUATION 

Did the actors invent objects or did they wait for them to ap- 
pear? Did players see each other's objects and use them? Is it 
possible to do this exercise without being intent upon each other? 
Did they talk their objects or contact them? To actors: did ob- 
jects come through association, or did they appear? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Suggest players select a gathering seated around a table. 

2. This exercise is related to SPACE SUBSTANCE and belongs in the 
transformation group. 

3. Resistance to working this problem will show itself in players 
using only the most obvious things and continuously pulling 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

away from the environment and the other players. Inventing, 
they soon run out of things to handle. When the problem is 
solved, however, much to everyone's excitment, endless ob- 
jects are the result: bread becomes crumbs, paper scraps, lint 
appears on a neighbor's coat, dust floats through the air, and 
pencils come from behind ears. Let your players discover 
this for themselves. 

4. This is another of the two-way problems. The on-stage occu- 
pation, the meeting, must be continuous, while the preoccupa- 
tion, the POC, must be worked on at all times. Some players 
will keep the meeting going and neglect the POC, others will 
work only on the POC and neglect the meeting. Side-coach 
accordingly. 



WHERE WITH UNRELATED ACTIVITY 

Two players. 

Where and Who agreed upon. What is to be a mutual ac- 
tivity not dependent upon Where they are (e.g., a dancing les- 
son in the bedroom, building a boat in the living room). 
POINTS OF CONCENTRACTION: players must make physical contact 
with all the objects in the general environment as drawn on 
the floorplan while pursuing their mutual activity. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

This exercise was developed to help players understand that it is 
only through relationship (Who) and activity (What) that the 
stage environment (Where) comes to total life for audience and 
actor alike. This two-way problem it gives the players both oc- 
cupation (activity) and preoccupation (POC). It would seem 
that a two-way problem consistently stirs up stage action because 
it temporarily removes the censoring mechanism that holds play- 
ers to old frames of reference and pedestrian or stereotyped 
behavior. 



WHERE GAME 

See First Where Session, p. 101. 

106 



Where 

WHAT TIME IS IT? A 
Single player. 

Bare stage. No detailed Where. Player writes a time on a slip 
of paper and hands it to teacher before going on stage. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on the time of day. 

EXAMPLE i: Man enters and closes door with exaggerated quiet, 
He leans down and removes his shoes. Putting them under his 
arm, he stealthily and unsteadily crosses the stage. Accidentally 
bumping into a chair, he stands frozen and listens intently. 
Nothing happens. Silently hiccoughing, he moves with high steps 
toward an inside door, puts his head in very carefully, listens, and 
hears with great satisfaction a snore. He exits, still hiccoughing. 

EXAMPLE ii (done by a ten-year-old): Girl comes sleepily on 
stage, crosses, opens the refrigerator, and takes out what appears 
to be a bottle. Yawning, she takes a pan from a cupboard shelf 
and partially fills it with water from the sink faucet. She then 
places the bottle in the pan and lights the stove. As she stands 
watching it, her head nods sleepily in a doze. She picks up the 
bottle and shakes it on her forearm, yawningly puts it back in 
the pan, and again nods her head, heavy with sleep. Once more 
she picks up the bottle, shakes it on her forearm, seems satisfied, 
turns off the stove, and sleepily exits. 

EXAMPLE in: A man enters and sets himself to work building 
something. After a time, he puts his tools aside, opens his lunch- 
pail, and proceeds to eat its contents. When he has finished eat- 
ing, he returns to work. 

EVALUATION 

What time was it? Did he show us or tell us? If audience 
says he was a drunken husband afraid of his wife, repeat: What 
time was it? 

Is it possible to show time without an accompanying activity? 
Is lunchtime always noon? What about the night worker? Is it 
possible to show time without using our cultural frames of ref- 
erence (i.e., in our 9-to-5 culture, we have set ways of showing 
6 A.M., noon, 5 P.M., etc. ) ? 

107 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

WHAT TIME IS IT? B 

(To be given immediately after WHAT TIME is IT? A.) 
Large group of players. 

Players sit or stand on stage. Teacher-director gives same time 
to all of them. They are to sit quietly on stage, working separ- 
ately. They may move only if they are pushed to do so by the 
Point of Concentration; but they are not to bring in activity just 
to show time. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to feel time through their bodies, 
muscularly and kinesthetically. 

SIDE COACHING: Feel the time in your feet. In yotir spine. 

EVALUATION 

Is there bodily reaction to time? Is the drowsiness of late 
afternoon different from midnight drowsiness? Is there only sleep- 
time, work-time, hungry-time? Is clock-time a cultural pattern? 
Is it possible to communicate time without handling props, 
setting up Where, etc.? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Actors will vary considerably in feeling time. For instance, 
2:00 A.M. will put some actors to sleep; but the night-owl in 
the group will become wide awake. 

2. Time should now be added to the Where floorplan. 

3. This exercise should be handled the same as HOW OLD AM i? 

REPEAT and WHAT DO I DO FOR A LIVING? REPEAT. 



WHAT TIME IS IT? C 

Three or more players 

Players agree upon Where, Who, What, and Time. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on time, allowing it to determine the 
way the scene will develop. Evaluation and Side Coaching 
follow the usual line. 

108 



Where 

WHO GAME 5 
Two players. 

A seated on stage. B enters. B has pre-planned definite char- 
acter relationship with A but has not told him what it is. By the 
way B relates to A, A must discover Who he is. When players 
have finished, reverse the scene, with B on stage and A choosing 
relationship. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to communicate relationship (Who) 
without telling a story; to find out Who you are (A); to show 
Who, the relationship ( B ) . 

EXAMPLE: A (girl) is seated on bench. B (girl) enters. B: 
"Hello, darling. How are you?" B starts fussing over A's hair. She 
then walks around A, looking her over most critically. B asks A 
to stand up. A does so. B turns her around, making clicking 
sounds. B "You look beautiful, darling; just beautiful!" B then 
puts her arms around A with great tenderness and rocks her back 
and forth. She stops, wipes a tear away, then hurriedly gets busy 
fussing with A again. She handles what looks like yards and yards 
of a bouffant skirt, then picks up a long, trailing piece of cloth 
which she places on A's hair. When A knows she is the daughter 
and this is in preparation for her wedding, she enters into the 
relationship. 

EVALUATION 

Did B show the relationship or tell? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. This is one of the early steps in the direct handling of charac- 
ter relationship and should be repeated throughout the train- 
ing period. 

2. Use a bench, rather than a single seat, on stage. 

3. The exercise can end the moment the problem is solved 
when the relationship is known--or can continue. Sometimes 
an interesting involvement takes place and much can be 
gained by continuing. 



See also SHOWING WHO THROUGH USE OF OBJECT, p. 139, and ART GAL- 
LERY, p. 139. 

109 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

4. Suggest that the students play this as a parlor game with their 
friends. 

5. If this game is given too early in the training, the student- 
actors may verbalize and make an intellectual game out of it. 
Should this occur, playing should be stopped and evaluated 
(show and not tell). Using gibberish here stops telling. 

6. Repeating this game every few months provides an excellent 
picture of student-actors' development and in their growing 
selectivity and improvisational skills. 

7. This game can be used for audience participation, where 
everyone but player knows Who he is. 

Fourth Where Session 

It is a good idea to begin each session with a warm-up exer- 
cise. Selections for warm-up are determined by the needs of the 
group whether it is an object-involvement exercise repeated, 
a Who exercise, or whatever. 

WHO'S KNOCKING? A 

Single player. 

Player is out of audience's view. They can only hear his 
knock. 

Player is to know Who he is, Where he is, time, weather, etc. 
He is then to knock in a way that will communicate as much of 
this information to the audience as possible. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on knocking; to show Who, Where, and 

What, through knocking. 

EXAMPLE: Different kinds of knocks might be: policeman at 
night, telegram, rejected sweetheart, messenger from the king, 
gangster entering a hideaway, spy, frightened neighbor, very 
young child, old man. 

WHO'S KNOCKING? B 

Single player 

A variation especially valuable for young actors. After asking 
student audience the Where, Who and What of a knock, the 

110 



Where 

teacher will find that many of them did not know the exact cir- 
cumstances. After Evaluation, when the action has been clari- 
fied, have the player repeat WHO'S KNOCKING, and the audience 
will listen more intently and find communication clearer. Now 
ask the student-actor who was the person he was trying to get to 
and have him go off stage and knock again, also calling out to 
whomever he was trying to reach. Send another student-actor on 
stage (quickly set up a Where) and have him be the person being 
called. 

EXAMPLE: A young boy coming home from school is knocking 

on a front door. 

Teacher: Whom are you trying to reach? 

Student: "My mother, but she is in the shower." (In the shower" 

is "story-telling" or "playwriting".) 
Teacher: How do you know she is in the shower if you have 

just come home from school? Now, the teacher asks 

again: Where are you? 
Student: "Knocking on the front door of my house trying to 

get in." 

Have student return to stage and knock and call again, ( an exten- 
sion of the outside Where is quickly designated to the one knock- 
ing : a kitchen window, back door, etc. ) . Have the young actor 
try to get in the house, calling to his mother as well as knocking. 
After he knocks and calls from the door with no answer he runs 
(continuing to call) to the window and then to the back door. 
Someone, then, can be sent on stage to be his mother and let 
him in. 

EXAMPLE ii: Player tells audience after initial knock that she is 
in a locked clothes closet trying to get out. Send someone on stage 
to be her mother; add obstacles to her getting out (she cannot 
open door, etc). 

This is simply an example of how with the simple warm-up exer- 
cise WHO'S KNOCKING a player can move into Where, When, and 
What and build a more complicated stage situation. 

EVALUATION 

Who knocked? Where was he? What was the reason for the 
knock? What age? What weight? Was it possible to tell the time? 
What color hair did he have? 

Ill 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 
POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Many questions in the Evaluation may be unanswerable; but 
it is interesting to ask, for many new insights often occur this 
way. 

2. This exercise is designed to show the student-actor how a 
sense of character and where he is and what he is doing can 
be determined by something as simple as the quality of a 
knock. 

3. Repeating the knock after Evaluation, as in the example 
shown, is especially valuable in keeping young student audi- 
ences "part of the game." Helping the very young student 
audience become more involved with what the other students 
are doing and really listen is often a serious problem for 
teachers and group leaders in the early work. 



ADD AN OBJECT WHERE #2 

Whole group. 

Agree on Where. Each player is to go on stage and place 
something in the Where. However, player is not to add his 
object until he has used the other objects already placed in the 
Where. This process of addition continues until the players have 
all added an object. Now they continue just as in the WHERE 
GAME (p. 101). 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: To build a Where. 

EXAMPLE: A pet shop. First player goes on stage and places a 
counter. Second player uses counter and places birdcage. Third 
player uses counter and birdcage and places aquarium. Fourth 
player uses counter, birdcage, and aquarium and places broom 
closet And so on. 

EVALUATION 

How many just plunked objects on stage and neglected to 
build the Where? How many developed definite characters when 
they came in to add an object? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. This exercise can be given when drawing floorplans is not 
112 



Where 

practical, as with very young students or very large groups of 
older children. If the workshop plan given in this handbook 
is followed, the exercise should be given after the WHERE 

GAME. 

2. This exercise is much like ONCE UPON A TIME (see p. 307) 
except that real props are not used. 

4. Following is a variation of the ADD AN OBJECT WHERE. One 
player goes on stage, puts an object in the Where, and uses it. 
Second player enters, relates to first player, and uses object 
first player has placed on stage. First player exits. Second 
player adds another object. Third player enters, relates in 
some way to second player, uses objects one and two. Second 
player exits. Third player adds an object. Fourth player en- 
ters, relates to player, uses objects one, two, and three. Third 
player exits. Fourth player adds an object. And so on. 



Fifth Where Session 

MIRROR EXERCISE #3 

See Fourth Orientation Session, p. 75. 

WEATHER EXERCISE #1 
One player. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: kind of weather or climate player is 
experiencing. 

EVALUATION 

Did the weather envelop him? Did he use his whole body to 
show us (e.g., was heat shown by his trousers sticking to his legs 
or did he just mop off his face)? Did he concentrate on the 
weather or a character? Did he concentrate on the weather or a 
situation? 

Repeat this exercise at this time or at a later date, following 
the procedure of HOW OLD AM i? REPEAT and WHAT DO i DO FOR A 

LIVING? REPEAT. 

113 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

WEATHER EXERCISE #2 
Large group. 

Group sits or stands on stage. Players agree upon, or are 
given by other students or teacher-director, a type o weather 
or climate. They are to show the audience the kind of weather 
they are experiencing, and they are to do it without using their 
hands. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on weather. 

SIDE COACHING: Feel the rain between your toes. Down your 
spine. At the end of your nose! 

EVALUATION To actors: Did you feel the rain differently with- 
out the use of your hands? To audience: was this a more interest- 
ing showing of weather? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

This exercise should be given immediately after all the players 
have completed WEATHER EXERCISE #1 and the Evaluation has 
been given. 



WEATHER EXERCISE #3 

(Should be given at same session with previous WEATHER EXER- 
CISES.) 
Two or more players. Where, Who, and What agreed upon. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: around weather or climate 

EVALUATION 

Did concentration on weather create tension on stage? Did 
weather work for the actors, or was weather just thrown in? Did 
weather help develop the content of the scene? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

Weather should be added to all floorplans from now on. Include 
some mention of it in all evaluations, since it can add interesting 
nuances to any scene. 

114 



Where 

WHO GAME, ADDING WHERE AND WHAT 
Same as WHO GAME, p. 109, with addition of Where and What. 
EXAMPLE: A (girl) seated on stage. B (man) enters, looks 
anxiously about stage. Sees girl and comes downstage right. Girl 
is seated SL. Man stands a moment on SR, looks at girl, and then 
moves toward her, moving in front of seats (as in a theater) to 
get to her. He is now face to face with her. He gives her a quick 
nod of recognition and a quick tender smile. He stops the smile 
abruptly and with serious face sits down alongside her. Certain 
no one is looking, he sidles close to her and surreptitiously takes 
her hand, squeezes it, and then quickly drops it. He then sits 
looking straight ahead with his head slightly bowed, taking sur- 
reptitious glances at A from time to time. 

EVALUATION 

Where are they? Who is she? Who is hep 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Watch for an increasingly interesting selection of detail from 
the actors. 

2. A variation of the game would give the student-audience an- 
other aspect of the same problem. In the game just covered, 
they are involved with the unknown (A's point of view). As 
added fun, allow them in on the pre-planning, from the 
known (B's point of view) . Simply have B write down Where 
and Who and pass it around the audience for them to read. 

3. Another variation is to have many Where's and Who's on 
slips of paper. B selects one of each just prior to going on 
stage. 

4. If student-actors have become skilled in playing, this exer- 
cise can go on for a very long time and stay in process. If, 
however, players tell a story instead of playing, stop them 
immediately. The moment we know Who and Where and 
What, the scene is over. This supplies an added challenge to 
the players. 

Sixth Where Session 

Choice of warm-up exercises will be determined by the needs 
of students. Is their handling of objects sloppy? Do they need 

115 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

work on Who? Do they need work on Seeing. Plan warm-ups 
accordingly. 

EXPLORATION OF LARGER ENVIRONMENT 

Two or more players. 

Teacher-director begins session by suggesting environment 
around which Where is to be used. He may suggest a general 
environment (e.g., "Today we will work with the outdoors" or 
"with enclosed areas"). Or he may designate a more specific en- 
vironment (e.g., "Today we will work around water"). Students 
now agree on Who and What and play scene. 
POINT or CONCENTRATION: on relating to the larger over-all en- 
vironment. 

EXAMPLES: Outdoors water, woods, forest, jungle, mountains. 
Enclosed cave, tomb, boxcar, tower, prison cell. 

EVALUATION 

What was above them? Beneath them? What was beyond? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Many students will have difficulty relating to environments 
other than the immediate environments of home, office, 
school, bar, etc. In this exercise, they are forced out into the 
larger, more distant environments. 

2. Some students, to avoid the exercise, will get side-tracked by 
a little detail at hand (no matter how large or what the en- 
vironment, they will always end up building a fire). They 
must be made to see and communicate with the larger en- 
vironment beyond them (e.g., space, water, an enclosure, 
lack of space, etc. ) , 

3. This exercise helps the student, in exploring the larger envir- 
onment, to make use of the space where the audience sits. 

Seventh Where Session 

QUICK SELECTION EXERCISE FOR WHERE 

Paper and pencils. 

Each student is to write down the name of three objects 

116 



Where 

which most readily indicates each of the following places. The 
object is not to be part of the decor (such as sawdust on the 
floor) but should be one physical inanimate object (i.e., an altar 
would suggest a church, a movable bed would suggest a hospital., 
etc.). When individual lists have been completed, they are to be 
compared and discussed. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to indicate Where through one related 
object 

LIST OF PLACES 

a jail a church steeple 

a dungeon a tree house 

a cellar a cocktail lounge 

a cave a saloon 

a boxcar a greasy-spoon restaurant 

a hospital room a coffee shop 

a child's bedroom a dining room 

a dormitory a dentist's office 

a mine a library 

an attic a church 

a tower a drug store 

EVALUATION 

Did the object readily indicate the Where, or could the ex- 
ample have been more explicit? Can objects alone show Where? 
Is it attitude toward and use of objects that clarify Where? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. This exercise should give the student some understanding of 
how a selected detail will help make an interesting communi- 
cation with an audience. 

2. This is not a game of association. It is an exercise in selectivity. 



EXCHANGING WHERE 

Two or more players per team. Try to keep equal distribution of 
sexes. 

Each team agrees on Where, Who, What, time, weather, 
what's beyond, etc. and does a floorplan. 

117 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

When all groups have finished, collect the floorplans and re- 
distribute them so that each team has another's floorplan. Redis- 
tribution should occur at the moment the team is on stage not 
before. Team may not go off stage for a discusison but must go 
right into the scene as structured by floorplan. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: players must enter into scene without 
any forethought; they must remain with planned structure 
presented on floor plan. 

EVALUATION 

Did they follow the floorplan? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. In spite of warnings, student-actors tend to plan How in ad- 
vance. EXCHANGING WHERE will alleviate this tendency. It is 
also one of the steps toward developing skills in SUGGESTIONS 

BY THE AUDIENCE. 

2. Do not tell students in advance that the floorplans will be 
collected and redistributed. Have them work on them as if 
they were going to carry them through. 

3. Try to keep the same number and distribution of sexes on each 
team, so that the floorplans will have meaning for different 
teams. 

4. Do not give the floorplan to the team until they are already 
on stage. 



Eighth Where Session 

INVOLVEMENT WITH THE IMMEDIATE ENVIRONMENT 

Two players. Preferably seated. Relationships agreed upon. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to show Where through continuous 
picking at small objects (contact) in the immediate environ- 
ment. 

EXAMPLES: In the course of conservation at a restaurant, play- 
ers might pick at napkins, swizzle sticks, crumbs, cigarette butts, 
flies, etc. 

118 



Where 

SIDE COACHING: Keep focus on objects around you! Show us 
Who you are through the immediate environment! 

EVALUATION 

Did the handling of small physical objects in the environment 
become part of the total scene, or did dialogue stop when ob- 
jects were being handled? Did Where they were come to life 
through the objects? Did they show us or tell us? Who were 
they? What was the shape of the salt shaker? Was there a cloth 
on the table? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. The purpose of the exercise is to make the players aware of, 
and force them to integrate, their action with the small de- 
tails in their immediate environment. 

2. Caution the students that they are not to perform a full ac- 
tivity, such as eating a meal. If a restaurant is chosen for 
Where, suggest that the dialogue between them take place 
after the meal has been completed but before the dishes have 
been cleared away. 

3. This exercise should be repeated after some work on ARGU- 
MENT, p. 180. 

4. If NO MOTION (p. 189) has been given early in workshop train- 
ing (recommended if the group is naturally skilled), the 
present exercise need not be used; for NO MOTION A brings 
extraordinary life and detail to the minutest object in the 
immediate environment. With some groups, however, the 
present exercise is more desirable. As in all such matters, the 
judgment of the teacher-director is what counts. 



WHERE THROUGH THREE OBJECTS 

Single player. Goes on stage and shows audience Where through 
the use of three objects. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to build a Where through three objects. 

EXAMPLE: Where greasy-spoon restaurant. Objects juke box, 
dining counter, phone booth. 

119 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 
EVALUATION 

Did the three objects handled build the Where, or were they 
isolated objects? Did you see a greasy-spoon restaurant? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Repeat at regular intervals throughout training. 

2. Watch to see that this exercise does not become an activity 
exercise, and side-coach accordingly. If the problem is solved 
the Where becomes a reality and an extraordinary sense of 
a total environment comes from the three objects alone, and 
is communicated to the audience. 

3. This is a valuable exercise as a step towards developing on- 
the-spot scenes from suggestions by the audience. 

4. This exercise should be used after QUICK SELECTION. 



Ninth Where Session 



Developing Organic Response Through Gibberish 

Gibberish is an extremely valuable exercise and should be 
used throughout the workshops. For the director of the formal 
play, gibberish is a great aid in releasing the actor from the mul- 
titude of technical details surrounding the initial plunge into re- 
hearsal and freeing him to move spontaneously and naturally 
within his role. 

Gibberish is, simply enough, the substitution of shaped sounds 
for recognizable words. It should not be confused with "double 
talk," where actual words are inverted or mispronounced in order 
to scramble the meaning. Gibberish is a vocal utterance accom- 
panying an action, not the translation of an English phrase. The 
meaning of a sound in gibberish should not be understood unless 
the actor conveys it by his action, expressions, or tone of voice; 
however, it is important that this should be left for the student- 
actor to discover. 

A scene that cannot be understood in gibberish is usually noth- 
ing but gags, story, plot, or ad-libbing. Gibberish develops the 
expressive physical language vital to stage life, by removing the 
dependency on words alone to express meaning. Because gibber- 

120 



Where 

ish uses sounds of language minus the symbols (words), this 
puts the problem of communication on a direct-experiential level. 

The actor showing the most resistance to gibberish is usually 
the person who relies almost completely on words in place of 
experiencing and shows great anxiety when these words are taken 
away from him. Since he almost invariably fights contact in any 
form, his everyday body movement is stiff; and his isolation from 
his fellow actors is quite pronounced. 

There will also be the student who will keep insisting that 
the teacher spell it out: "Should it be through action or gibberish 
that the communication is made?" The older and more anxious 
the student, the more he will prod the teacher to answer this 
question. One anxiety-ridden student who finally received great 
insight remarked: "You are on your own when you speak gibber- 
ish!" When asked if that wasn't also true when she used words, 
she thought a moment and replied: "No, when you use words, 
people know the words you are saying. So you don't have to do 
anything yourself." 

Let students find this out for themselves. Gibberish, if com- 
municated properly, can only bring about total physical response. 
But if the teacher tells the student he is to do it through action, 
he will then concentrate on action and will not get the experience 
he should have. We want integration of sound with physical or 
organic response; and it must come spontaneously from the 
student. 

Because sound without symbols except in the case of pain, 
joy, fear, or astonishment cannot be recognized without body 
functioning, gibberish forces the student-actor to show and not 
tell. Because the sounds are meaningless, the player has no way 
of escaping. Then physicalizing mood, problem, relation, and 
character becomes organic. Body holds are released, for players 
must listen and watch each other closely if they are to understand 
one another. 

Scenes without sound, loosely called "pantomime" (see Chap- 
ter V), will not achieve the same results as gibberish; for we 
must not abstract sound (dialogue) from action. Dialogue and 
action are interdependent: dialogue creates action, and action 
creates dialogue. The student-actor must be freed physically as 
he speaks. The insecurity which can keep the flow and intonation 

121 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

of the dialogue static will disappear as the student-actors lessen 
their dependency on words. 

Insight into useless dialogue (ad-lib) often appears at this 
time. Dialogue that is not part of the expressive physical lan- 
guage of the stage life, is, after all, only gibberish! 

Introducing Gibberish 

Developing fluency in "no-symbol" speech brings with it a re- 
lease from word patterns that may not come easily to some stu- 
dent-actors. The teacher should illustrate what gibberish is be- 
fore using it as a stage exercise. (He may have to practice his 
own fluency before presenting gibberish to the group. ) Such an 
illustration might consist of simple communications initiated by 
the teacher. Using gibberish, ask a student to stand up. Go to 
him and, with a gesture, indicate the command. Use a sound 
to accompany the gesture Gallomsheo! If he is slow to respond, 
repeat the sound or invent a new phrase and strengthen the ges- 
ture. Ask other students to sit down (moolasayl), move about 
(rallavo!), sing (plageeP). Make a student sing the scale by point- 
ing to him and singing from "do" to "fa" using only the sound "o" 
and pointing again. 

Have students turn to their neighbors and carry on conversa- 
tions as if speaking an unknown language. They should converse 
as though making perfect sense. Keep the conversations going 
until everyone participates. Stress the use of as many different 
sounds as possible, exaggeration of mouth movements, and tonal 
variation. Have those who stick with a monotonous dadeeda 
sound with little lip movement converse with those who speak 
more easily* 

Have the students who seems to speak gibberish with confi- 
dence ask others in the group to hold hands, open a window, 
pick up a booksimple actions which can be easily communi- 
cated. While most of the group should be over their initial fear 
of joining in the activity, there will be one or two student-actors 
who are so tied to speech for communication that they will be 
almost paralyzed, physically as well as vocally. Their gibberish 
will come out as defective speech, or they will retain exactly the 
word and sentence pattern of what they are saying and simply 
garble the individual word sound. Their actions will be jerky. 

122 



Where 

Do not belabor the point with them. Treat it most casually, and 
before the third session of gibberish is completed, flow of sound 
and body expression will be one. 

GIBBERISH #1 DEMONSTRATION 
One player. 

Stands on stage. He is to sell or demonstrate something to the 
audience in gibberish. When he has finished, have him repeat 
but ask him to pitch what he is selling or demonstrating. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to communicate (show) to audience. 
SIDE COACHING: Sell directly to us! See us! 

EVALUATION 

Was there variety in the gibberish? Did he maintain direct 
communication with the audience? Did he see the audience or 
stare at them? Was there a difference between the first selling 
and the second? Why did pitching bring greater intensity to the 
player's work? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION: 

1. Demonstrating or selling directly to the audience must be in- 
sisted upon. At first, the player will stare out or look over the 
heads of the audience. If pitching does not alleviate this, 
it may be necessary to have the player repeat a few times 
until he really sees the audience. 

2. It will become evident in the student-actor's work when his 
stares become seeing, (cf. Seeing and Not Staring, Chapter 
VII.) Both the audience and the player will experience the 
difference. An added depth, a certain quiet, will come into 
the work when this happens. 

3. Pitching requires direct contact with others. Students will 
discover this for themselves. If the point is understood, even 
momentarily, it will be an important breakthrough for many 
of the students. 

GIBBERISH #2 PAST INCIDENT 

Two players. 

Players on stage. Using gibberish, A tells B of a past incident 

123 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

(such as a fight he was in or a trip to the dentist ) . B then tells A 
of something that happened to him, also using gibberish. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on communication to each other. 

EVALUATION 

Ask A what B told him. Then ask B what A told him. (Neither 
player must assume what the other has related, since B's assump- 
tions will not help A to make the clear communication necessary 
for solving the problem. ) Ask the audience what was communi- 
cated to them. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. To avoid preliminary discussion, the two players should be 
picked at random just prior to going on stage. 

2. This exercise should be repeated at intervals throughout 
training. 

3. When this exercise is first played, students will act out (tell) 
their incident in great detail. If relating a visit to the dentist's 
office, for instance, they will hold their jaw, open their mouth 
wide, poke at their teeth, groan, etc. When the exercise is 
re-done after months of workshop, however, the integration 
of sound and physical expression will be most subtly commu- 
nicated. The players will be able to communicate the same 
events with a shrug of the shoulders or a slight dilation of the 
nostrils or a wiggle of the foot. They will be able to show, 
not tell. 

GIBBERISH #3 TEACHING 

TEACHING A 
Two players. 

Players each decide on a Where and Who. They both have the 
same What: to teach, using gibberish. Subject could be how to 
take pictures, play a guitar, etc. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to instruct another. 
TEACHING B 

Two or three large teams. 

Teams are to be in schoolroom situations. Each team agrees 

124 



Where 

upon Where, Who, and What. Floorplans should be used to in- 
sure detailed environment. Students play scene in gibberish. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to instruct a group and experience 

their response. 

EXAMPLES: children's first-grade class, medical students in dis- 
section class. 

GIBBERISH #4 THE GIBBERISH GAME 

Played same as the WHERE GAME (p. 101) . 

One player goes on stage and sets up a Where, into which 
other players enter, after deciding upon specific characters for 
themselves. They speak in gibberish. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on the gibberish. 

Exercises For Three More Where Sessions 

TWO SCENES EXERCISE A 7 B, and C 

See p. 160. 

GIBBERISH #5 WHERE WITH GIBBERISH 

Any size team 

Floorplans prepared by each team as usual. Scenes are done in 
gibberish. After each team's performance, the players repeat the 
same scene in English. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on making everything that happens on 
stage understandable to the other actors. 

SIDE COACHING: During gibberish, Communicate to the other 
player! Don't expect him to interpret! What are you telling 
him? 

EVALUATION 

Was the meaning of the English dialogue close to or the same 
as the gibberish communication? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

1. This exercise will very clearly show the student-audience 
where communications were clear and where the players as- 

125 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

sumed or filled in for each other. Make it clear that we can 
only help each other by evaluating the reality that was exactly 
communicated, not a generality which the audience or the 
other players filled in for us. 

2. Unnecessary verbalizing comes sharply to the students' at- 
tention when there are no understandable words between 
players. 

3. Repeating in English is done simply to determine how exact 
the communication had been made in gibberish. During the 
English version of the exercise, stop the action continuously 
to ask the opposite player and the audience, "Did he com- 
municate that in gibberish?" Once the point of unnecessary 
dialogue becomes clear through this means, the scene does 
not have to be completed. 



WHAT DO 1 DO FOR A LIVING? REPEAT 

Same as HOW OLD AM i? REPEAT. 



GIBBERISH #6 FOREIGN LANGUAGE 

FOREIGN LANGUAGE A 
Team of four players. 

Team sub-divides. Together, the sub-teams agree on Where, 
Who, and What. The two players within each sub-team speak 
the same language; however, each sub-team speaks a language 
not understood by the other. 

EXAMPLE #1: Where deck of ocean liner. Who Sub-team A: 
young girl and companion; Sub-team B: husband and wife. What 
relaxing in deck chairs. 

EXAMPLE #2: Where border customs office. Who Sub-team 
A: mother and daughter. Sub-team B: official and countryman. 
What mother, daughter, countryman seeking visas. 

EVALUATION 

Did the sub-teams understand each other? Did players speak- 
ing same language communicate freely to each other? 

126 



Where 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION: 

1. It is interesting to note that if the student-actors are working 
on the POC (on the gibberish), when the sub-teams are 
speaking to each other the gibberish is very labored and ac- 
companied by many large gestures. But when they are speak- 
ing within their own sub-teams (speaking the "same lan- 
guage'' ), they communicate fluently and with minimal ges- 
turing. The fact that they are using gibberish in both instances 
does not seem to occur to them. 

2. Tell the players not to give any particular language rhythms 
to their gibberish (such as French, Swedish, etc.). 

3. This exercise should produce a complete breakthrough into 
gibberish by the most resistant student-actor. Sound should 
now flow and be completely integrated with bodily expres- 
sion. Gibberish should not interfere with the total communi- 
cation. If this does not happen in this exercise, gibberish has 
not been presented correctly to the students. 

FOREIGN LANGUAGE B 
Two players. 

Exercise played same as FOREIGN LANGUAGE A, with each player 
speaking a different language. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on the gibberish. 

GIBBERISH #7 TWO SCENES WITH GIBBERISH 

Incorporate gibberish into the exercise called TWO SCENES (see 
Non-directional Blocking, p. 160). This exercise is particularly 
interesting. The teams must be alerted to give the Frame 
(close-up) to each other; and since they are speaking in gibber- 
ish, they must be greatly involved in the full stage action. 

Additional Exercises For Heightening 
The Reality Of Where 

Stop! 

Before moving ahead into the following exercises, it is most 
important to go into WORD GAME (Chapter IX). We may find 

127 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

students at a loss for fresh material They become tired of the 
familiar living room or schoolroom; development slows down if 
they constantly assume characters of schoolteachers and an oc- 
casional storekeeper. This is particularly true of the young actor. 

WORD GAME releases more "playing" and generates a good 
deal of excitement and fun. Because it allows each team to play 
two or three scenes, it brings a flow to their work; it further shows 
the teacher-director (similar to the run-through in directing a 
play) how far students have come and what their needs are. 

It would also be advisable to do a few exercises from Chapters 
V and VII before coming back to the additional Where exercises. 



VERBALIZING THE WHERE 

Two or more players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. 

PART A 

Players sit quietly on stage. Without leaving their chairs, they 
go through the scene verbally, describing their action and rela- 
tion to the Where and to the other players. In short, they nar- 
rate for themselves, When dialogue is necessary, it is given di- 
rectly to the other player, interrupting the narration. The entire 
scene, narration and dialogue, is done in present tense. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to state every involvement, relation- 
ship, observation, etc. while verbally playing the scene. 

SIDE COACHING: Keep it in the present! Give us a detailed de- 
scription of that object! Describe the other players for us! See 
yourself in action! What color is the sky! 

EXAMPLE 

Player #1: I tie my apron around my waist and reach for the 
red-and-white, cloth-covered cookbook on the table. I sit down 
at the table and open the book. I turn to the section on cookies 
and thumb through the smooth, shiny, white pages, looking for 
a recipe. Hmmm, sugar cookies that sounds pretty good. I ponder 
over it a minute and then decide to look farther. I turn some more 
pages. I find two pages stuck together, the edges brown and stiff. 

128 



Where 

I wonder what's on this page must be something good. I insert 
my finger between the two pages and unstick the corner. I find 
a recipe for chocolate-drop cookies. Chocolate drop cookies . . . 
now let's see, do I have chocolate? I put the book down on the 
table, get up, and walk to the yellow cabinets over the sink. I 
reach for the handle of the cabinet to the right of the window. 
One of the decals is loose. I fasten it and open the cabinet. I hear 
the screen door open and slam behind me. 

Player #2: I open the screen door and run into the kitchen. 
Darn it, I let the door slam again! H ey, mom, Tm hungry. What's 
for dinner? ( And so on. ) 

PART B 

When the players have finished talking through the scene, 
they get up and actually play the scene through. This exercise 
provokes scene material. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to retain as much physical reality from 

the verbalization as possible. 

EVALUATION 

To actors: Did the verbalization of the scene help you in on- 
stage reality? Was the playing of the scene easier because of the 
verbalization? 

To audience: was greater depth brought to the playing of the 
scene because of the verbalization? Was there more life in the 
playing of the scene than usual? Was involvement and relation- 
ship greater than usual? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. This exercise serves a similar function to the Relaxed Re- 
hearsal (see Directing for the Formal Theater, p. 336) in 
that it gives perspective to the actor and brings "self" back 
into the picture. It also brings the physical stage to life. 

2. Except for the practice of side-coaching some of the mirror 
and space exercises, the exercises up to this point have at- 
tempted to objectify the student-actor, to make him a part of 
the group, the environment, and the exercise to create a loss 
of self. In this exercise, we bring self back to the actor. He is 
made conscious of himself as a part of the environment. This 
is most important; for the actor, much like the player in a 

129 



IMPROVISATION" FOR THE THEATER 

game, must always know where he is In relation to what is 
happening on stage. 

3. Note the complete absence of playwriting in these scenes as 
true improvisation appears. 

4. It is not necessary that every detail covered in the narration 
be a part of the playing of the scene. This exercise gives an 
enrichment in detail and underlining which will be accom- 
plished even if the narration is not followed to the letter. 

5. Take care that this exercise is given only to those students 
who have become truly objective in their work. If it is given 
too earlybefore students have mastered "loss of self 'it will 
defeat its own purpose, in that it will bring subjectivity be- 
fore objectivity has been grasped. 6 

6. This exercise has been played successfully with as many as 
ten players in a scene. 

7. The problem must be handled carefully to avoid playwriting. 
If narration deals with what the players are thinking rather 
than on the detail of physical realities around them, this exer- 
cise can become a series of "soap operas." 

8. VERBALIZING THE WHERE is valuable to use during rehearsals 
of improvisational theater and during a run when details and 
reality are lost or become sloppy. It is also valuable for the 
formal theater rehearsal. 

WHAT'S BEYOND? D 

Two players. 

Simple Where agreed upon. A is on stage. B enters. A must 
find out where B has been and what he has done without B 
telling him. A must then start scene on stage related to what B 
was doing off stage. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: what's beyond. 

EXAMPLE: Wheredining room. Whohusband and wife. What 

wife selecting food from a party buffet table. 

Scene opens with wife helping herself to a drink and some 
food. Husband enters with very pleased look on his face. He 

6 Players must have thoroughly solved Where to get full benefit from 
this exercise. RELATING TO INCIDENT, p. 170, is a preliminary step to this 
problem. 

130 



Where 

lightly brushes off his jacket and smoothes his hair as he comes 
downstage to wife. Wife then starts action relating to where 
husband was and what he was doing. 

EVALUATION 

Did A assume what happened off stage, or did B show it? Did 
A find out by questioning? Did situation move into scene or 
simply end when A knew what B had done? Did actors stay with 
the Point of Concentration, or did they start acting? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. This exercise, by expanding the reality off stage, will enrich 
on-stage work. 

2. As the exercise is repeated at intervals throughout the training 
period, watch for growing subtlety of selection in student- 
actors. In the early sessions, if A comes on stage after having 
lost money in a gambling game, he might turn his pockets in- 
sied out and shake his head sadly. A later presentation of this 
same problem should communicate the same off-stage scene 
through a far more subtle level of action. 

3. If communication has not been made, have the student- actors 
repeat the exercise after the evaluation has been given. 

WHAT'S BEYOND? E 

Two players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Players are to pursue 
their What on stage. They have either done something (together) 
before they came on stage or are going to do something in the 
beyond when they leave. It is never brought out into the open. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on what has happened in the beyond 
or what will happen while totally involved in an on-stage ac- 
tivity. 

Evaluation and Side Coaching follow the same pattern of all the 
WHAT'S BEYOND. This can be played by a single player. 

WHATS BEYOND? F 

Two players. 

Where, Who and What agreed upon. Players pursue on-stage 

131 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

activity while something that involves both of them is taking 
place in the beyond. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on what is taking place in the beyond. 

EXAMPLE i : Where office. Whoco-workers. What working 
at their respective jobs. What's beyond meeting of the board of 
directors re: reducing staff, 

EXAMPLE ii: Where bedroom. Who husband and wife. What 
in bed trying to get to sleep. What's beyond young daughter 
is entertaining her date in the living room. 

The scene is over the moment what's beyond is brought on stage. 
This happens if it is mentioned or played with at all. In the 
above example the turning, tossing rearranging of pillows, open- 
ing and closing windows, turning lights on and off, getting up to 
drink water, etc., developed into a delightful bit of comedy as 
mother and father waited for the boy to leave. These exercises are 
for advanced students only. Used too early in the training, WHAT'S 
BEYOND is brought on stage so fast that an improvisation takes 
but a few moments. If done by advanced players, however, the 
game can be kept going for a very long time, with the audience 
totally involved in the problem, 

WHAT'S BEYOND? D, E, F and all the PREOCCUPATION exercises 
should not be given until using the Where and relating to an- 
other actor through an on-stage activity is second nature to the 
players. This can happen only after many hours work on refining 
awareness. Otherwise this dual problem of off-stage and on-stage 
becomes impossible to handle. 

However, after all the early beyond exercises, CONVERSATION 
WITH INVOLVEMENT and ARGUMENT, for example, are solved (they 
are two-part problems), these can be tried. If the players become 
emotional, if WHAT'S BEYOND is brought on stage almost before 
the playing begins, simply stop the exercise and come back to it 
at a much later date. 

WHAT'S BEYOND? F is a superlative problem for developing 
scene-improvisation. 

132 



Where 

PREOCCUPATION A 

Two players. 

Preferably seated in same immediate environment (such as in 
a restaurant, sharing seat on train, etc.). Each is totally preoccu- 
pied with his own train of thought. One player is verbal and 
garrulous about his preoccupation. The other player is silent. One 
is presumably listening to the other. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION; players to be totally preoccupied with 
their own thoughts, while using objects together in the im- 
mediate environment. 

SIDE COACHING: Keep activity going between you. Keep re- 
lationship. 

EXAMPLE: Where restaurant. Who two women friends. What 
having lunch together. 

A is preoccupied with a problem she is having with her boy 
friend and keeps up continuous verbalization of her problem. B 
is preoccupied with some personal problem that need never be 
mentioned. While concerned with their preoccupations, both 
are eating, asking to have things passed, having cigarettes, etc. 
B answers A only at the point where she actually hears what she 
is saying; however, B never enters into or becomes part of what 
A is saying, keeping her own preoccupation at all times. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Involvement with each other takes place only at the moments 
in which a "bridge" is made between them: at random mo- 
ments when B hears A speaking or where the immediate en- 
vironment brings them together ( asking things to be passed to 
one another, etc. ) . Otherwise, each player is within himself. 

2. Do not allow players to shut themselves off from each other. 
Even though they are preoccupied, they are still together in 
an activity and have relationship in the immediate environ- 
ment. 

3 . Variation of the exercise: while A is talking, B is preoccupied 
with an object, such as a book, TV, etc., instead of a personal 
thought. 

4. PREOCCUPATION is closely linked to the exercise on chattiness 

133 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

and CONTRAPUNTAL ARGUMENT, p. 180, and should be used in 
conjunction with this exercise. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. If this problem is solved, the Where, Who, and What will 
come to total life and improvising is a fact, There will be no 
playwriting possible. 

2. The scenes produced from this exercise will have incredible 
reality in detail. The audience will get to know everything 
about the characters and where they are without any telling. 
A fragment, with no beginning, middle, or end, this exercise 
produces an organic unfolding of the characters, their re- 
lationship, their background, and their attitudes without ben- 
efit of exposition, information, facts, or story. 

3. While it follows CONTRAPUNTAL ARGUMENT procedures (p. 
180), this exercise does not necessarily call for simultaneous 
talking by the players. Sometimes they will talk at the same 
time, and other times one will talk while the other is busy 
thinking and working at the activity. 

4. The players are not in any conflict. There is agreement on 
what they will talk about and agreement on activity. Their 
preoccupation merely results from their points of view, not 
from a basis for argument. 

5. This exercise builds rich scenes and is therefore valuable in 
developing material. 

6. If conflict appears, stop the scene and have the players re- 
state their agreed subject. If the original statement implied 
conflict, have them restate it toward a point of view. 

7. Watch to see that the preoccupation during the scene does 
not become the players' involvement with each other. 

8. Be certain the players have an activity (What) going on 
stage that keeps them completely occupied in doing physical 
things together that have no relation to the point of view 
each one is pursuing. 

9. A resistance to the Point of Concentration will show itself by 
the players using the on-stage activity or each other in such 
a way that it displaces the preoccupation. This point is diffi- 
cult to understand, particularly by players who consistently 
resist the Point of Concentration and rely on gags, jokes, 

134 



Where 

and playwriting to make a scene. They do not "trust the 
scheme." 

10. If student-actors cannot solve this problem, they need more 
work on their preliminary steps. All the WHAT'S BEYOND exer- 
cises and CONTRAPUNTAL ARGUMENT should be solved first. 

11. Players are not to answer one another unless it is a "jump" 
as in CONTRAPUNTAL ARGUMENT. Then such a response be- 
comes a total organic one and not just intellectual and is 
very exciting to observe. 

12. The moment the preoccupation replaces the activity (occu- 
pation) as the stage involvement, the scene is over, and in all 
cases this becomes an organic ending. 



BEGIN AND END 7 

PART A 
Single player. 

Sets up a very simple Where, Who, and What. Plays it in 
usual manner. 

EXAMPLE: Enters room. Looks around to make certain no one 
has seen him come in. Is obviously about to do something he 
shouldn't. Looks around room. Spots dresser. Goes to dresser. 
Opens a couple of the drawers and riffles the clothes. Runs back 
to door to make sure no one is coming. Returns to dresser. Goes 
through a couple more drawers. Finally finds what he is looking 
for. Quickly puts it in his coat pocket. Takes quick look in mirror 
to make sure he looks all right. Leaves through door. 

PART R 

Player must now break the little scene into a series of smaller 
scenes, or "beats." Each "beat" or smaller scene is to have its 
own beginning and end. Player is to call out "Begin!" at the be- 
ginning of each beat and "End!" when it ends. He is to build or 
intensify each beat/scene one upon the other. Using the image 
of "walking up stairs" should clarify this point. 



7 This exercise speeds up Where and develops scene material for per- 
formances. 

135 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

EXAMPLE: Player enters (BEGIN). Stands looking around to 
make sure no one is there and finally closes door (END). 
(BEGIN) Stands and looks around room, spots dresser, and goes 
to it (END). (BEGIN) He opens a couple drawers, riffles the 
clothes, thinks he hears something, quickly closes the drawers, and 
goes back to the door to listen (END). (BEGIN) Looks back at 
dresser, goes to it again (END). (BEGIN) Opens more drawers, 
finds object he's looking for (END). (BEGIN) Looks at object 
in his hand and puts it in his pocket (END). (BEGIN) Looks 
in mirror and straightens coat, then walks out of room (END). 

SIDE COACHING: Give the new beat more energy! Build the next 
beat higher! Hit the BEGIN (vocally) harder! 

PartC 

Player goes through scene as in Part A, without saying "Begin" 
and "End" but doing everything as fast as he can while keeping 
the details of the scene. 
EVALUATION (on first and last scenes only) 

To actor: which scene was the most real for you? 

To audience: which scene came to life for you? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. In almost every case, we will find that the final scene had life 
for both the actor and the audience. This is so because the 
first scene tended to be generalized, or the player was sub- 
jectively involved, using invention rather than creating. The 
"begin" and "end" forced the player into an outside (objective) 
detailing of his objects. 8 The speed-up scene, then, profited, 
first, by the detail created by "begin" and "end" and, second, 
by the fact that the player did not have time to recall the 
details in "begin" and "end" had brought up for him. He had 
immediate contact with his objects. 

2. The "begin" and "end" might be one moment on stage, like 
putting the object in the pocket, or it might be a series of 
activities, like closing the door, moving into the room, and 
walking to the dresser. 



8 As in BEGIN AND END WITH OBJECTS, p. 79, and NO MOTION, p. 189, the 
detail comes through because the static required in BEGIN AND END "holds 
time" momentarily so that we see an action. 

136 



Where 

3. This is a very valuable exercise for those interested in direc- 
tion, for it gives the director a detailed breakdown of what 
must come out of the total scene it gives him the single beats 
within the over-all scene, so that he too knows where he is 
going. It is equally valuable for the actors in improvisational 
theater, when scenes are being set for performance. 

4. The process of speeding-up scenes without begin-and-end can 
be employed whenever the teacher-director wishes. It tends 
to remove the "generalizations" from a scene and brings the 
scene to detailed life. 

5. BEGIN-AND-END is a valuable technique for locating the theme 
of a play or scene. 



RUMINATING 

(For very advanced students. This exercise belongs in the group 
of advanced WHAT'S BEYOND? and PREOCCUPATION. ) 
Single player. 

As in WHAT'S BEYOND? the player sets up a double Where, Who, 
and What. The first consists of the on-stage environment and ac- 
tivity; the second is the Where, Who, and What of a past inci- 
dent in his life. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on the past incident. 

EXAMPLE 

On stage 

Where: musty den 

Who: old man of 65 

What: working on his stamp collection. 

Past Incident 

Where: at work 

Who: fellow-employees 

What: farewell party retiring him. 

SIDE COACHING: This should help the player in sensory concen- 
tration on the past incident. Concentrate on the objects in 
the past incident! See the Where! What are the people around 
you wearing? Keep your on-stage activity going! Dont tell us 
the past incident let it come forth! 

137 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 
POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. When what player is ruminating about comes to full view 
of the audience, the scene is over. This problem produces the 
most subtle and exciting material and acting. 

2. If the scene becomes emotional or takes the form of talking 
about the past incident, the exercise has been given too early. 
Go back to earlier exercises. 



Additional Exercises For Solving 
Problems Of Where 



The following exercises are extra problems to be given 
throughout the Where period of training. During these sessions, 
students should continue to draw floorplans. 



THE SPECIALIZED WHERE 

Two or more players. 

All teams are given the same general Where (e.g., a hotel 
room, an office, a schoolroom, etc.). They are each to develop 
the Where more specifically. Who and What agreed upon. Players 
do scene. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to show specialized Where through the 

use of physical objects 

EXAMPLES: a Paris hotel room, a hospital office, a jungle school- 
room. 

EVALUATION 

Were there specially picked objects that made the setting dis- 
tinctive and recognizable, or did they have to tell us where they 
were through talking? Is it possible to show different variations 
on a Where through objects alone? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. If solved, the problem will result in different rhythms, de- 
pending upon the type of specialized Where chosen. A stock- 

138 



Where 

broker's office with constant ticker-tape bursts would be much 
different from the quiet rustle of a hospital office; a jungle 
schoolroom would be much different from a modern urban 
public-school classroom. 

2. Encourage the actors to choose unusual, unrealistic settings 
(e.g., an office in Heaven, a hotel in the jungle). If they have 
had WORD GAME this will be no problem for them. 

3. Use WHERE WITH HELP and WHERE WITH OBSTACLES whenever 
the playing needs an assist from the teacher. 



ART GALLERY 

Two players. 

Where: art gallery or museum. Who: to be developed within 
exercise. What: visiting the art gallery or museum. 

A is seated on stage. B makes entrance, walks around viewing 
exhibit. B decides what A looks like and must in some way show 
this to A. When A knows what he looks like, he gets up with the 
character qualities B has given him, walks around the gallery, 
and exits. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to show physical characteristics. 
EXAMPLES: tall, fat, midget. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. This may be too difficult and will not be solved by many 
students in the early sessions. They will, however, find it most 
interesting. Most important, it creates an intense observation 
of each other. 

2. The teacher might suggest that the players can get fanciful 
about the other character (e.g., ten feet tall, big feet, light as 
a balloon, etc.). But the teacher should not give students 
samples beforehand. 



SHOWING WHO THROUGH THE USE OF AN OBJECT 

Two players. 

Players agree upon one object that will show Who they are. 
They use that object within an activity. 

139 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to show Who through the use of an 
object. 

EXAMPLE: Who two physicists. Object blackboard. 
A and B are sitting quietly looking at something a short distance 
in front of them. A gets up and walks to the object. He picks up 
a piece of chalk and writes down a series of numbers obviously 
an equation on it. B watches him write, mumbles some indistinct 
sounds, shakes his head, mumbles some more. A looks inquiringly 
at B. B concentrates on blackboard and then gets up, moves 
toward it, and writes another equation on it. B turns to A inquir- 
ingly. A: "You're right. That's the solution!" 

EVALUATION 

Did they show us or tell us? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

Continue to caution: Show, dont tell! Act, dont react! 

WHERE WITH SET PIECES 

Two or more players. 

All teams are given a list of identical props and furniture. 
Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Players do scene. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to let the objects (set pieces) create 
the scene. 

EXAMPLE 

A typical list of furniture and props might be: 
window to a fire escape 
door to a clothes closet 
door to a bathroom 
door to the outside 
window to the street 
pull-down bed 
small refrigerator 

glasses, cigarettes, miscellaneous hand props 
bookcase 
dresser or chest 
easy chair or two 
photographs 

140 



Where 



EVALUATION 

Did they write a scenario around the objects, or did the ob- 
jects create a scene? How different were the scenes from one an- 
other? Did the fire escape bring up a new view, or was it just a 
prop? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Do not evaluate until all the teams have worked on the 
exercise. 

2. This exercise should help the teacher-director to determine 
whether actors are beginning to understand the phrase "let 
the Where create the scene/' If they imposed a scene upon the 
objects instead of letting the objects create the scene, then 
the way Point of Concentration works is not yet fully under- 
stood. 



WHERE HOMEWORK EXERCISE 

Each student fills out floorplan at home, concentrating on 
Where, and studies how it might be used by characters. The stu- 
dent plan for two characters, setting up about a three-minute 
scene. He then writes a script setting up characters and action in 
relation to Where. Students come to class with their floorplans 
and scripts, and members of the group follow these and go 
through the exercise. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: all dialogue and action must come out 
of contact with the physical objects. 

EXAMPLE: Where living room. Who boy and girl What 

studying. 

Boy (focusing on desk) sits at desk writing (uses desk, pen, etc.). 

Girl (focusing on door) knocks on door (handles door). Boy 

(focusing on door) goes to door and opens it (handles door). 

Etc. 

EVALUATION 

Did each action come out of Where, or was the action im- 
posed upon it? 

141 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 
POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Player must focus on objects first. This focus will generate an 
action toward it. 

2. This exercise can be done within a workshop session. Teams 
of two can first work it out on paper and then go on stage 
and do scene. 



THE ABSTRACT WHERE A 9 

Some of the students arrange the stage behind a closed cur- 
tain. The intent is to create a setting which is not a literal repre- 
sentation of any particular place. They may use stage blocks, 
pieces of cloth, strange props, and unusual lighting effects . When 
they have finished, the curtain is opened, and another player 
must go up into the setting and remain quietly within it. He is 
not to perform any activity until the setting moves (inspires) 
him to do so. 

SIDE COACHING: Do not force! Take all the time you need! Re- 
main quiet! 

EVALUATION 

Did the setting generate the scene, or did the actor impose 
the scene into the setting? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Genuine set pieces and lighting are essential to the success 
of this exercise, since they stimulate mood, perception, and 
action. 

2. Urgency for activity often moves an actor into a scene before 
it arrives. Watch for this. 

3. Another actor may be sent on stage after the scene begins to 
move. He is not to impose any outside mood on the scene, 
however, but simply to come on stage waiting for the initiator 
of the scene to put him to use. The actor on stage may call 
for other actors within the mood of the scene, of course. 



EXCURSION INTO THE INTUITIVE, p. 191, is a similar exercise. 
142 



Where 

THE ABSTRACT WHERE B 

Player A sets up a grouping o furniture such as chairs, com- 
bination of chairs, tables, window frames, etc. that suggests some 
human activity. The student audience observes the set-up, and 
any one then enters into a scene suggested by the groupings. 

POINT OF CONCENTKATION: on the grouping of the props and set 
pieces and letting them work for the player. 

EVALUATION 

Did the players allow the "set" to work for them or did they 
impose a story upon it? Did the one who set up the stage have a 
story in mind? A scene? A definite goal? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

This problem requires set pieces and props and lighting to be 
fully utilized. The one who sets up should let the props work for 
him. Also, he need not have a story in mind but can let the "life 
in the object" suggest ways of grouping. 



SHOWING WHERE WITHOUT OBJECTS 

Two players. 

Players must show Where by any one of the following: 

1. by looking at something ( seeing ) 

2. by hearing (listening) 

3. by relationship ( who you are ) 

4. by sound effects 

5. by lighting effects 

6. through an activity 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on using sensory equipment and/or 
relationships to show Where. 

EVALUATION 

Did they use an object to show us? Did they just do an exer- 
cise in seeing, listening, or whatever (as in Orientation), or did 
they show us Where? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. This exercise will help to remove the fearful student's 

143 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

"crutch": using physical objects only by handling to show 
Where. 

2. While this may appear similar to the kind of exercise given in 
early Orientation, the Point of Concentration here is on 
Where a subtle difference, but an important one. 

3. Do not use this exercise until SHOWING WHERE THROUGH 
PHYSICAL OBJECTS has been covered thoroughly and is auto- 
matic with students. 

4. Character relationships grow in great intensity throughout 
this exercise. 

5. Advanced students find this problem most challenging; and 
many sessions can be spent on it, using all the methods for 
showing Where. 

SENDING SOMEONE ON STAGE 

Two players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Other players enter 
scene during the playing if they feel they can help develop it. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to enter the scene and help develop it 
and/or end it. 

EVALUATION 

Did player or players who entered the scene develop the 
scene? Did the player come in at a time of emergency? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. This exercise is useful when a performing group is doing 
suggestions from the audience. It alerts all players to help 
end the scene on stage when it becomes bogged down. 
Though "One minute!" cannot be called out during perform- 
ance, this serves the same purpose. 

2. This exercise is similar to the WHERE GAME but more advanced 
in that the players who enter the scene do so only if they can 
help develop it, bring it to an end. 

THE THUMBNAIL SKETCH 

Single player. 

Decides on Where, Who, and What. Plays scene. 

144 



Where 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to show Who he is and What is going 
on through the use of the Where. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

A variation of this exercise adds a point of decision to the person's 
life. Examples: whether or not to go to poorhouse; whether or 
not to give up son; whether or not to commit suicide. 



SHOWING WHERE THROUGH WHO AND WHAT 

Two or more players. Where, Who, and What agreed upon. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: use Who to show Where. 

EXAMPLE: Wherean orphanage. Who a little girl and a man. 
What new parent picking up girl. In this case, the whole sense of 
the orphanage came through. 

EVALUATION 

Did trying to show Where through Who intensify relation- 
ship? Is it possible to show Where through Who? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION: 

1. The student-actor must never tell Where he is. 

2. This exercise serves the purpose of intensifying relationships. 



WHERE WITHOUT HANDS 

Played the same way as INVOLVEMENT WITHOUT HANDS, p. 65. 

Watch to see what players are breaking dependency upon 
the teacher-director and without being told justify using no 
hands. In a bedroom scene, for instance, the player may have 
fresh nail polish on her fingers, making it necessary to open and 
shut drawers and closets with feet, elbows and shoulders. A 
player enjoying a walk in the park might keep his hands in his 
pockets as he kicks rocks, lets trees brush his shoulders and buries 
his face in a bed of flowers. Players who do not justify use of no 
hands will keep POC on hands instead of using objects to show 
Where, which completely alters the problem. Let players dis- 
cover this for themselves. 



145 



V. Acting With the Whole Body 

The actor must know that he is one unified organism, that 
his whole body, from head to toe, functions as one unit in a life 
response. (See Chapter XI) . His whole body must be a vehicle of 
expression and must develop as a sensitive instrument for per- 
ceiving, making contact, and communicating. The phrase "See it 
with your elbow!" is a way to help the student-actor transcend his 
cerebral concept of a feeling and restore it where it belongs 
within his total organism. He must, in fact, cry with his stomach 
and digest with his eyes. 

This chapter contains exercises which help the student-actor 
physicalize for himself the side coaching used throughout the 
workshop: Feel your anger in the small of your back! Hear that 
sound in your fingertips! Taste the food all the way down to your 
toes! 

Ideally, however, all acting workshops should be implemented 
with regular bodywork by a specialist in the field. It is the 
avant-garde teachers who are sought, those who are also investi- 
gating the problems of movement as it relates to the environment. 
Those have come to realize that body release, not body control, 
is what is needed for natural grace to emerge as opposed to 
artificial movement. 

146 



Acting With the Whole Body 

Exercises For Parts Of The Body 

These exercises are designed to develop more organic use of 
the feet and legs and to awaken the student to the realization that 
his feet and legs are integral parts of his body. 

A stage curtain is needed for these exercises, a curtain raised 
just high enough to show the feet and legs of the actors. If the 
stage curtain cannot be raised up and down, a cloth can easily be 
hung at knee-height. Just be certain the upper part of the body 
is concealed. 



FEET AND LEGS ALONE 

EXERCISE 1 
Single players. 

Each player is to show one of the following through the use 
of his feet and legs alone: Who you are. What you are doing. A 
state of being (impatience, grief, etc.). 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on showing Who, What, or a state of 
being with the feet alone. 

EVALUATION 

See Evaluation used in the EXERCISE FOR BACK, p. 150. 
EXERCISE 2 

Two players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. No dialogue is to be 
used. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: all focus on legs and feet alone. Rela- 
tionships, laughter, sadness, etc., are to be communicated by 
the feet alone. 

EXAMPLE i: A boy's feet approached a door they hesitated. Did 
they dare go farther? After a moment of indecision, they 
screwed up their courage and stepped onto the door mat. The 
nervous feet wiped themselves too zealously on the mat obvi- 
ously, a bell was ringing inside the house. 

A girl's sandaled feet appeared at the door. It seems they too 
were shy. They came out; and there ensued a walk in the garden, 

147 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

with the shy young lovers side by side. The feet easily told the 
story of love overcoming embarrassment. 

EXAMPLE H: Wherea theater. Who two strangers. What 
watching a movie. 

We first saw two pairs of feet inching along the aisle, finally com- 
ing to rest as their owners sat down. The scene soon revealed that 
they were watching an exciting western. In the course of the 
excitement, each player took off his shoes, the better to relax. 
And when they stood up to leave, the shoes became confused; 
and the two pairs of feet inched out along the aisles, each shod 
with the other's brogans. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Once the problem is solved with twos, any number of players 
can be used effectively. 

2. Actors should also do this exercise barefooted. Knowing their 
feet are exposed, they will work with greater understanding 
of the problem to show the audience how they feel. 

3. Note students' later work to see how much has been absorbed 
by them. Are their feet brought more into action? Are doors 
shut by feet? Are feet used more for contemplation, for anger, 
within a scene? Do the feet come alive? Do the actors show 
more head-to-toe energy in their work? Did the feet tell a 
story, or did the scene evolve? 



HANDS ALONE 

Many actors who do use their hands along with their faces 
and voices are oblivious to their full value. Others wave them 
about as if they were gunny sacks, gesture like French chefs, or 
use them only to hold cigarettes. And, of course, some immature 
actors use their hands to accent every word spoken uninterest- 
ing usage of some very important energy. In the following ex- 
ercise, the student-actor learns to show relationship through the 
use of his hands. 

In preparation for the exercise, the teacher-director must see 
that a small, puppet-like stage is available, a stage which hides 
the students' bodies from view. An oblong table, curtained off, 

148 



Acting With the Whole Body 

might be used. A light may be needed to illuminate the minia- 
ture playing area. Hand props are useful but not essential. 

Teams of two. Players agree on Where, Who, and What. 
Speech is not to be used, nor are the players to use any part of 
their bodies except their hands and forearms. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to show Where, Who, and What, by 
means of the hands alone. 

EXAMPLE i: At first we saw the hands of someone writing on 
a piece of paper. They laid the paper aside and made a gesture 
for someone off stage to come in and sit down on the other side 
of the desk. The second pair of hands entered. They were tense 
and seemed gnarled and twisted, as if they belonged to a para- 
lytic. They tried to hide themselves, to become composed. The 
first hands smoothly reassured them and proferred the paper for 
the paralyzed hands to sign. They pushed over a pen, which the 
latter picked up with great difficulty. While the paralyzed ones 
struggled to sign the paper, the first ones made smoothing, con- 
fident, friendly gestures. The scene went on for some time; with 
all our attention focused on these hands alone, the scene became 
intensely emotional and exciting. 

EXAMPLE ii: Where priest's study. Who priest and criminal. 

What criminal is confessing to the priest. 

SIDE COACHING: Laugh with your fingers! Shrug your hands, not 

your shoulders! Remember, we cant see your face! Put all 

that energy into your fingertips! 

EVALUATION 

See Evaluation used in EXERCISE FOR BACK. Emphasize, to 
audience: did they communicate relationship. To players: did 
you plan a story? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Exercise can also be done as FEET AND LEGS ALONE, with single 
players. They are to show: who they are; what they are doing; 
state of being such as grieving. 

2. At first, students will have a strong tendency to use their 
faces or other parts of their bodies, which are, of course, in- 
visible to the audience. If they solve the problem of showing 

149 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Where, Who, and What with their hands, they will soon de- 
velop articulate fingers. 

3. At all times avoid discussing over-use of hands. If students 
begin to think in terms of energy, using this terminology is 
useful, because instead of telling them not to use their hands, 
the teacher can suggest that their energy be shifted to a more 
suitable location. In most cases it need never be mentioned. 

4. Finger exercises are useful for hand development. 

5. The tendency to plan a story is strong in this exercise. Players 
may have to be reminded again to let the POC work for them. 



EXERCISE FOR BACK 

Any number of players. 

Through this exercise, student-actors should be made aware 
that "no backs to the audience" is merely employed as insurance 
against loss of communication with the audience. The actor learns 
to communicate to his audience without the aid of dialogue or 
facial expression in short, to communicate with his body. 

Preliminary Work 

Ask two students to come up in front of the class. One is to 
face the audience, and the other is to stand with his back to 
them. Have the audience list the parts of each person's body 
which can be used for communication, having the student move 
the parts as mentioned. 

Front View 

1. Movable forehead 9. Teeth 

2. Movable eyebrows 10. Shoulders 

3. Movable eyes 11. Expandable chest 

4. Pliable cheeks 12. Hands and arms 

5. Wrinkling nose 13. Movable stomach 

6. Movable mouth 14. Knees 

7. Working jaw 15. Ankles and feet 

8. Movable tongue 16. Curling toes 

Back View 

1. Head ( no moving parts ) 

2. Shoulders (same as front) 

150 



Acting With the Whole Body 

3. Torso ( solid mass ) 

4. Arms and hands (limited movement) 

5. Buttocks 

6. Heels, ankles, and backs of legs 
(comparatively immobile) 

Now have individual students sit at a piano with their backs 
to the audience. They are to show how they feel through their 
manner of playing. Let them find their own attitudes. Some 
examples of attitudes might be: practicing unwillingly, con- 
certizing, playing with nostalgia, 

Following this, students agree on Where, Who, and What. 
Scene must be played with their backs to audience. They should 
choose a setting where dialogue is not usable (e.g., a church, 
around a mine disaster, a place where strangers gather). Point of 
Concentration is in using their backs to show the audience their 
inner action what they are feeling. They should take something 
which has a focus of interest (e.g., people watching a man threat- 
ening to jump from window ledge, people watching gang fight, 
people watching football game) . 

EXAMPLE i: Where Bare waiting room with benches. Who 
Refugees, doctors, nurses, etc. What Flood. Time Four A.M. 
Weather Thunder and lightning. Problem Trying to sleep and 
ease discomfort. 

SIDE COACHING: Dont show it in your face, show it in your back! 
EXAMPLE n: A play in which an eight-year-old played a nasty 
little princess required her to shove her prime minister off the 
stage. In the side coaching, she was asked to show her anger and 
nastiness in her shoulder blades. The resultant action was not only 
body-wide, but her voice rose to great rage; and interesting stage 
business appeared as she shoved the minister out of the room. She 
was told to keep the anger in her shoulder blades as she came 
prancing down to her desk. She literally filled the stage with her 
feeling and had no trouble solving the problem. It was under- 
standable and amusing to her to be *mad with your shoulder 
blades" 

EVALUATION 

Did they show us with their backs? Could they have found 

151 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

more variety of movement? Did they diffuse or concentrate ex- 
pression? How old were they? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Variations of this exercise can be done using single players. 

2. Do not expect too much at first. Only the more naturally 
skilled will be able to give a complete expression in the be- 
ginning, j 

3. The teacher-director may have to use this exercise early in the 
work, when the "backs or no backs" argument first comes up. 

4. This exercise is useful for the formal theater in rehearsal for 
such things as a crowd scene. 

PARTS OF THE BODY: FULL SCENE 

After each individual exercise or series of exercises concentrat- 
ing on parts of the body, divide the group into teams. Where, 
Who, and What agreed upon. Scene is done in regular way, with 
student-actors in full view of audience. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on the specific part of the body previ- 
ously covered. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

1. Note that many mannerisms have disappeared. For instance, 
student-actors who previously relied on facial grimaces will in 
many cases have lost this crutch as a result of these exercises. 

Exercises For Total Body Involvement 

TOTAL BODY INVOLVEMENT 

Two or more players. For advanced students. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Must choose scene 
which involves head-to-toe action. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION; head-to-toe involvement. 
EXAMPLE: revival meeting; pilgrims crawling to shrine; deep- 
sea divers hunting treasures underwater; removing boulder from 
mouth of a cave; non-gravity space ship. 

J52 



Acting With the Whole Body 

RHYTHMIC MOVEMENT 1 
Full group. 

Have players sit or stand in large area. Teacher-director calls 
out an object (train, airplane, space ship, washing machine, etc.). 
Players are instantly, without reflection, to make some motion 
that the object suggests to them. 

Have them continue the movements until they become rhyth- 
mical and easy. When this has occurred, side-coach the group to 
move around the area, keeping their movements going. Put on a 
record or have a pianist play and have them keep the same move- 
ments, now accompanied by music. 

Set up a scene for the students as they are moving around. 
EXAMPLE: The characters were quickly cast without halting 
their movements. A student who had developed an interesting 
dipping movement, using his full torso, became a barker. Two 
girls who used hand-propeller movements became side-show 
dancers. One girl, darting speedily from one end of the stage 
to the other, became a mother looking for her child, and so on. 
The whole stage became an animated, exciting carnival. 



TENSE MUSCLE 

Two or more players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Each player is to tense 
up some part of his body and is to keep it tense throughout the 
scene. However, this is not to be a part of the sceneit is to be 
a purely personal thing. Although the tenseness will almost al- 
ways be noticed by the audience, the actor should not attempt 
to show it to the audience or to justify it in any way. If one 
player takes a stiff leg, for example, he is not to justify it by 
being lame but is to play the scene as if the stiffness did not exist. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on tensing up some part of the body. 

EVALUATION 

Did the actors try to justify their tenseness, or did they simply 
work with it? Did their concentration on tense muscle give more 



1 See also RANDOM WALK, p. 221. 

153 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

spontaneity to the actors' work? To actors: Did your concentra- 
tion on tense muscle give you a freedom of response? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. On the initial presentation of this exercise, note that many 
players will tense up what is already a personal muscular 
problem for them (i.e., the stiff-necked person will take a 
stiff neck; the student who over-uses mouth and face will 
concentrate on a facial muscle). Do not point this out to the 
student-actors until the full group has completed the exer- 
cise the first time. Then, after bringing this out into the open 
through an evaluation, have them re-do the scene, taking an- 
other tense muscle. Needless to say, this may necessitate two 
or more sessions. 

2. The resistance to Point of Concentration which comes up in 
all the exercises will be very evident here. Choosing to tense 
up what is already a tense muscle constitutes resistance to 
working on the problem. 

3. This exercise keeps the actor intensely preoccupied as he 
moves through the scene. In one case, a student-actor who re- 
sisted almost all the problems had a dramatic breakthrough on 
this one. 



PUPPETS AND/OR AUTOMATION 

(Can be used for development material for scenes. ) 

Discuss with the student-actors the movements of string pup- 
pets. If possible, bring a string puppet and toys and dolls to class 
for them to observe. 

EXERCISE 1 

Two or more players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: characters are to move like puppets. 

EXERCISE 2 

Same as #1, except that we now have a combination of both 
puppets and humans. 

154 



Acting With the Whole Body 

EXAMPLES: One man, in power, manipulates a large group of 
people who respond as puppets. Or, a puppet-maker puts on a 
show. 

EXERCISE 3 

(The following exercise, intended for young children, is a varia- 
tion of the above ). 

The teacher-director gives the scene to class: Where toy 
shop. Who toys, shop-owner, customers. What toys are being 
repaired, cleaned, and sold. Suggested toys talking dolls, walking 
dolls, dancing bear, jack-in-the-box, puppets, pirouetting doll, 
wind-up toys. 

EXERCISE 4 

Vary the preceding scenes by concentrating on things that 
work mechanically, such as a computer machine, a mechanical 
clock, a gum machine. 



155 



VI. Non-Directional Blocking 

Fundamentals 

One of the marks of the seasoned actor is his natural, purpose- 
ful stage movement. Stage movement, or blocking, must be un- 
derstood for what it is. The teacher-director should not influence 
exactly where an actor stands or how he gets on and off the 
stage except where position strengthens or weakens relationships, 
mood, or characterization. 

Blocking should facilitate movement, emphasize and heighten 
thought and action, and strengthen relationships. It can be used 
symbolically or visually to underline conflict relationship and 
mood. It is mass balancing mass, mass balancing action, mass 
balancing design. It is the actor inside the set moving within the 
color and background of set and costumes. It is the integration 
of the stage picture. 

Blocking must be understood in this way. The actor must 
learn to consider the demands of the scene. Like a lithe ball 
player, he must always be alerted to where the ball may land and 
should as he moves around the stage be aware of his fellow 
players as well as of his place and his part within the total envi- 
ronment. The actor must become so sensitive to blocking that he 
keeps the stage picture interesting and the sight-lines clear in 
every moment of his work. 

156 



Non-Directional Blocking 

For the formal play, blocking should never intrude or appear 
to be a learned response. The actor must not move from sofa to 
chair to door like an awkward dancer who has learned his steps 
by count. Premature blocking arbitrarily put upon unseasoned 
actors not only creates this unpleasant rigidity but also renders 
the players unable to meet crises during performances. The stu- 
dent-actor who has been trained in non-directional blocking 
greatly implements the work of the director as he moves around 
the stage, always aware of his place within the total picture. Non- 
directional blocking achieves spontaneous selection and the abil- 
ity to meet all crises. 

For improvisational theater, the necessity to understand this 
point is apparent. And, as with other stage conventions, student- 
actors must absorb this awareness until it becomes intuitive or 
second nature to them. Spontaneous blocking appears to be care- 
fully rehearsed when players are truly improvising. 

Non-directional blocking gives the actor and director the same 
relationship that they must have when developing scenes for im- 
provisational theater presentation. It is give and take between 
actor and director. Because the director has a different look-in 
and is seeing the canvas from the viewer's standpoint, he can (by 
observing what has been achieved spontaneously by the actor) 
take from the actor what is best needed for the scene and give 
it back to him. The director thus selects, rejects, or adds to what 
is being done on stage, plus the playwright's suggestions. In this 
way the actors and director work as one unit, strengthening the 
finished play with the totality of their individual creative energy. 

The growing ability to see the stage from the audience's point 
of view while on stage gives the player awarenes of action 
in relation to others and so becomes a great step towards self- 
identity, ridding him of the crippling effects of egocentricity and 
exhibitionism. 

Stage Business 

Stage business is closely tied in with blocking; and the two 
will grow hand in hand. The most skilled director or actor can- 
not always intellectually find interesting stage business, Like 
blocking, business should be unobtrusive and spontaneous in ap- 
pearance. This can only happen when it grows out of the stage 

157 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

relationship. Stage business should not be an activity just to keep 
actors occupied. Aside from the obvious method of adopting the 
business suggested in the script itself, the director of formal plays 
will find that using the following acting exercises will create more 
business than the director or actor could find in many hours of 
work on the script. 

Share With Your Audience 

The phrases "Share with your audience" and "You're rocking 
the boat" will give the students a sensitivity towards the problem 
of blocking. The word "blocking" itself is deliberately avoided in 
the workshops, since it is a label. "Share with your audience" 
should become a personal problem to the student-actor. When 
it is thoroughly understood, then the word "blocking" can be in- 
troduced; although, even with professional actors, "Share with 
your audience" brings out a more natural response than a com- 
ment on their poor blocking. For sometimes professional actors 
need to be reminded that they are on stage for a reason. 

Many interesting moments occur on stage when actors, in 
trying to share the stage picture, must move other actors. When 
the director coaches, "Share the stage picture," he should never 
call the name of any particular actor. Every actor on stage is 
responsible for everything that happens. If some actors are not 
aware of the stage picture, other actors must move them. If this 
cannot be done, then all must move into a new stage picture 
around the unaware actor. This awareness of each other creates 
continually flexible, moving stage. In a sense, whenever necessary 
each actor fills the role of director or prompter. 

When actors work for the total scene, they can only be grate- 
ful for such help. For instance, the situation is an office. Howard 
is standing in front of the secretary, and so we cannot see her. 
Howard is oblivious to the fact that he is "blocking" and does not 
respond to the coaching: "Share the stage picture!" The secretary 
simply says, "Will you please be seated?" Or, "Would you please 
come here?" Or, if there is still no response, she may physically 
move him to a more satisfactory position; or, if this is not possible, 
she will re-block herself in relation to him. 

When student-actors thoroughly understand "Share with your 
audience," then they are indeed free! There is no one to blame. 

158 



Non-Directional Blocking 

Exercises 

PREOCCUPATION B 

Two advanced players (Superlative for developing scenes for 

performance but wasted if players do not know how to use 

POC.) 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. What should be an ac- 
tivity totally involving both players, such as preparing for a pic- 
nic, dressing to go out, etc. Players also agree on a subject or 
point of view to be discussed during this activity. They must have 
total occupation (physical) together and total preoccupation of 
thought at the same time (see NO MOTION, p. 189). 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: Each player is to verbalize and become 
totally preoccupied with his own point of view on the subject 
they have agreed upon. At the same time each player is to re- 
main completely occupied with an interrelated activity so that 
all through the scene they consistently need each other's help 
as in the case of the picnic, the preparation of food, helping 
each other find things, etc. keeping a flow of dialogue on their 
preoccupation while relating each other with action and 
dialogue in the activity going on at present (on stage). 

SIDE COACHING: Hand each other things! Keep your own point 
of view! Keep the activity going between you! Meet each 
other only because of the on-stage activity! 

EXAMPLES: WJiere kitchen. Wlio two sisters. What helping 
each other prepare for a picnic. Agreed subject right of divorce. 
Where lawn. Who sweethearts. What playing croquet. Agreed 
subject kissing in public. Where bowling alley. Who husband 
and wife. What playing and scoring. Agreed subject what to do 
with his mother. (Once when this sample situation produced con- 
flict in actual use, it was stopped and restated. The restatement, 
"what to do about old people," was more appropriate. And "what 
to do with mother" appeared out of it naturally. ) 

EVALUATION 

Did they have total preoccupation with their points of view? 
Did they work together on the activity? Did they use the Where 

159 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



continuously? Was their preoccupation with their points of view 
separate in that they did not build on each other's? Did their 
preoccupations keep them from each other on one level, while the 
Where, Who, and What kept them fully involved and relating 
in the stage present? Did they verbalize things in the immediate 
environment without displacing the preoccupation? 



TWO SCENES 

TWO SCENES, requiring give and take, is also closely related 
to problems of listening and speech and should be exploited for 
these purposes. The first four parts of this exercise, A through D, 
should be used in problems of listening and speech. Although 
subsequent exercises are directly related to self-blocking, A 
through D ought to precede them for clarification. 

Without listening, a team can neither give nor take. And when 
a team is taking, the other team cannot give unless the voice cuts 
into their scene with sharpness, resonance, and clarity. For this 
reason give and take (players* choice) is especially valuable for 
speech resonance. The exercise can be played with both teams 
so attentive to giving and taking that dialogue comes through 
with depth and resonance. To give or take, a voice must, like an 
instrument, make its tone felt. Players can develop this ability 
to give and take so sharply that sometimes teams can give or 
take the scene with only a single word. TWO-SCENES originated 
when it was noted that actors had difficulty relating when they 
were in a scene with four or more on stage at once and where 
there was more than one center of attention, such as a restaurant, 
a party scene, etc. 

A. GIVE AND TAKE (with direction) 

Divide into teams of four. Teams sub-divide into teams of 
two. Set up two tables on stage, with a sub-team at each table. 
The members of each sub-team set up a relationship between 
themselves (e.g., sub-team A, a husband and wife deciding on 
a separation; sub-team B, two businessmen trying to agree on a 
contract). At no time during the exercise do the sub- teams have 
any interchange with one another. Each sub-team works as an 
independent scene. 

160 



Non-Directional Blocking 

Both sub-teams start their scenes at the same time. Once 
they've begun, the teacher-director steps in and calls out the 
name of one sub-team, say subteam A. Sub-team B must then 
fade out of the focus and give the frame or focus to sub-team A. 
In other words, when sub-team A is called, their scene becomes 
the focus on stage (much like a camera closeup), and they must 
share their voices and their problem of relationship with the audi- 
ence. At the same time, sub-team B must stop all visual and 
sound activity. Sub-team B is not to freeze, however, but is to 
continue relationship and problem even though they have moved 
out of focus. When the teacher-director calls sub-team B, they are 
to move back into focus and share their voices and problem with 
the audience, with sub-team A moving out of focus and stopping 
all sound and visual activity. 

The problem to be solved here lies in the student-actors' abil- 
ity to continue relationship and problem while stopping all physi- 
cal movement ... in not freezing when their sub-teams moves 
out of the focus. 

EXAMPLES: When sub-team A is called, sub-team B (the busi- 
nessmen trying to agree on a contract) might, though stopping all 
sound and visual action stay with their relationship by reading 
over the contract, leaning head on hand contemplatively, eyeing 
each other speculatively. 

When sub-team B is called, sub-team A (husband and wife de- 
ciding on separation) might turn their backs on each other in 
anger, weep or mope, embrace. 

These techniques serve to keep the sub-teams out of the focus and 
yet still relating to each other and their problem. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. If either of the sub-teams is obviously waiting for their "turn," 
if they freeze, then they have not solved the problem. Many 
student-actors find it dfficult to maintain relationship and 
tension in stillness. They will manage to keep themselves in 
constant activity no matter how minute. If this becomes a 
problem with your group, give them the exercise called SI- 
LENT-TENSION SCENE (p. 188) along with the present one. 

2. Watch for spontaneous breakthrough in players straggling 

161 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

with the problem of retiring without freezing and without de- 
pending on the teacher for examples. If this exercise is to be 
used for public performance, then verbalizing all possibilities 
of retiring from scene would be explored. 

3. Examples are given in this handbook to clarify and demon- 
strate, but the teacher is never to give examples to the stu- 
dents in workshop sessions. Those who resist an exercise may 
say that it is "silly/' "impossible/' etc. Just encourage them to 
work on the problem, to try to solve it even though they may 
not succeed. 

4. Give TWO-SCENES for the first time during a Where session 
when five or more players are on stage and all move and 
talk at once. 

B. USING "GIVE" 

Sub-teams follow the same patterns as in Part A except that in- 
stead of the director calling on them, the sub-teams must now 
give the focus (frame) to each other. When and how this is 
done can only be determined by the sub-teams themselves. 

C. USING "TAKE" 

Follow the same patterns. However, the sub-teams must now 
take the focus from each other. This will often turn into shout- 
ing and confusion, but keep with it. When spontaneous selection 
is thus forced up by the problems of the scenes, the student-actors 
will sing, jump on chairs, stand on their heads, etc. if such tactics 
are necessary to take the focus. Nate an extraordinary heighten- 
ing of energy and impact as the student-actors seeks to solve the 
problem of taking the focus from one another. 

D. PLAYERS' CHOICE 

Repeat same exercise, but this time the sub-teams are to give 
to and take from each other as the situations arise. 

EVALUATION 

Was there a problem in giving the focus? The answer in al- 
most every instance is "yes." Why? We couldn't hear the other 
sub-team, and so didn't know when to give it. 

When were you able to give the focus? When the other sub- 
team came in strong. 

162 



Non-Directional Blocking 

Did you have a problem taking the focus? Yes. Why? Because 
we couldn't come in strong enough to take it from them. 

The evaluation will cause most of the actors to realize that 
whether they give or take, relationship is implicit in either one 
and must take place before a play can come into focus. The 
student-actor in improvisational theater must know when to give 
the focus and when to take the focus. In either case, the same 
result will be apparent: heightened stage energy and a clearer 
stage picture. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. When stages get cluttered with everyone talking at once, side- 
coach "TWO-SCENES!" and actors will give or take as necessary. 

2. This exercise should be repeated continuously throughout 
training. Frame can be used interchangeably with focus. 

3. This exercise has value for the student director. 



CONVERGE AND RE-DIVIDE 

If possible, this exercise should be used immediately following 
TWO SCENES. It is very exciting when used with students advanced 
in gibberish. 

Group divides into teams of four, six, or eight. A team agrees 
on Where, Who, and What and then divides into sub-teams. 
They move through their scenes, giving and talcing the focus from 
each other as in TWO SCENES. 

When the scene is moving, the director calls "Converge!" Sub- 
teams must then begin action with other sub-teams. When the 
director calls "Re-divide," the sub-teams must split, and the play- 
ers continue their scenes with new partners, again using the give 
and take technique. 

The director may call converge and re-divide as often as he 
wishes. However, towards the end of the exercise, the director 
should call, "As you were!" so that the players end the scene 
by getting back into the relationships of their original sub-team. 

EXAMPLES 

Where park. Whophotographer and customer (sub-team A). 

nursemaid and a maintenance man ( sub-team B ) . 

163 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Where separate booths in a dance studio. Who teacher and teen- 
age girl (sub-team A), teacher and elderly man (sub-team B), 
interviewer and new customer (sub-team C) . 

EVALUATION 

Did the sub-teams give and take? If sub-team A had the focus, 
did sub-teams B and C use interesting ways of fading out? Did 
they justify converging and re-dividing? Did they give and take 
for the enrichment of the total scene? 



LONE WOLF 

Uneven sub-teams 

This is much the same as CONVERGE AND RE-DIVIDE. However, 
instead of splitting entirely into sub-teams of two people each, 
the group includes one sub-team with only a single player. In 
other words, if there are five people on a team, then the sub-teams 
will consist of two, two, and one. 

This becomes an interesting problem for the single player as 
he strives to gain the focus or frame without having a player to 
work with. Converging and redividing need not be called in this. 

EXAMPLES: Two and one. Where Old Peoples' Home, in the 
garden. Who two elderly men (sub-team A). An old lady ( sub- 
team B). 

Two, two, and one. Where newspaper office. Who two reporters 
(sub-team A), city editor and photographer (sub-team B), copy 
boy ( sub-team C). 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1 . Until "Converge!" is called, teams remain preoccupied with 
their own involvement and relationship. During the converg- 
ing, the dialogue and action of all players intermingle. When 
they re-divide, the teams again relate to new player. 

2. This exercise could be done with teams of four or more play- 
ers as one unit (e.g., groups of people gathered around an 
accident, at a political meeting, on a picnic, etc. ) . 

3, When teams agree on Where, Who, and What, they remain 
separate from the others on Who and What, but all the sub- 

164 



Non-Directional Blocking 

teams must be in the same place (Where), under the same 
roof, so to speak. 



CHANGING PLACES 

Any number of players. 

During playing, actors must be in constant re-formation. Any 
one of the actors may initiate movement. If any one actor moves, 
the other actors must instantly do likewise. If an actor goes down 
stage for instance, the other actors find a reason for moving up 
( or right and left ) . 

In a version for two players, a player must move into the exact 
stage position the other player has just left. 

Another version calls for one large team with a series of sub- 
teams. Teams of two are placed within a larger grouping of 
people as at a cocktail party. If there are ten people on one team, 
for instance, five sub-teams (two each) are to be set up, and these 
sub-teams are to change places with one another whenever one 
moves, while all players stay within the Where, Who, and What 
( at the same time ) . 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: constant observation of fellow players. 

EVALUATION 

To audience: was movement justified? Did players find 
ways to move into opposite players' position that were non- 
pedestrian? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Players may or may not know each other within the situation. 
In a party scene, for instance, the characters are assumed to 
know one another, but this would not necessarily be true of a 
scene laid in train station. 

2. The concentration required in observing one's partner's move- 
ments, while at the same time initiating movement, brings 
an interesting sparkle to the stage as the players are alerted 
to each other. 

3. Do not allow teams to select a "built-in" movement situation 
as in an art gallery. Remind student-actors to keep the prob- 
lems challenging. 

165 



IMPBOVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



4. All exchange of position and rhythm of movement must be 
determined by the limitation of the agreed structure. 



SIGHT-LINES 

Sharing the stage picture will eventually become an organic 
process for the student-actor. However, this exercise is especially 
helpful in emphasizing the visual tie between the actor and the 
audience. It also has value in stimulating unusual design and 
movement within the stage picture. 

Stage blocks, risers, and ramps are particularly useful in 
helping to find interesting and different uses of stage levels. 

1. Using a blackboard, sketch out a diagram of the line of 
sight from the individual actor on stage to the individual in the 
audience. 

2. To increase awareness of perspectives, have student place 
his hand a few inches in front of his face and note how the ob- 
jects beyond his hand, although larger, are almost obliterated 
from view. 

3. Discuss the uses of the blocks and risers in clearing sight 
lines and creating an interesting stage picture through the use 
of levels. 

4. Have the teams do scenes in the usual way, keeping in 
mind the actor-to-audience sight-lines and utilizing the stage 
levels. 

5. Through a series of commands to "Change!" players con- 
tinuously transform the stage picture; (b) players initiate change. 
In either case, there is to be no forethought as to the changes. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

Professional actors can use this exercise as a freshener and re- 
minder that they, too, should strive for interesting and exciting 
stage pictures to share with the audience. 



MOB SCENES 

To give life and vitality to mob scenes, each individual within 
the mob should have a personal reality. Improvisations around 

166 




Photo by Morton Shapiro 



Original Second City cast 
with director Paul Sills 




Photos by Enrico Sansini 



From the part to the whole: 
workshop scenes 
on these and the following pages 
show students performing 
HANDS exercise, FEET AND LEGS 

ALONE, and BLIND 



Non-Directional Blocking 

such characters' lives prior to joining the scene can give substance 
to their mob participation. It is important in mob scenes that the 
sight-lines to individuals or groupings are kept clear. Mob scenes 
can often be very refreshing to the eye if broken lines are used. 
Use of backs creates broken lines (see Chapter V) . 

EXAMPLE: To create a mob scene in which many people hov- 
ered around a disaster area, improvisation was used in the fol- 
lowing manner. Prior to going on stage, each family group or in- 
dividual who was to be in the scene was put into a "house'' of his 
or their own. Each group established a Where, Who, and What. 
A large room off stage was used for this, and about fifteen of these 
units were set up simultaneously. All were busy with their own 
private lives. Some visited others, some talked over the fence to 
their neighbors, etc. The director moved down the "street/' call- 
ing "Focus!" at different houses. Each group called, then played 
its relationships. When the disaster whistle blew, bedlam broke 
loose, and there were some truly interesting scenes: dashing from 
house to house, collecting children who were playing, etc. Then, 
en masse, the players rushed to the scene of the disaster to the 
stage. Thus the mob became a real lively excited group of people. 

EVALUATION 

This exercise has extra value, since the actors very often need 
to feel they are more than a mob as indeed they are. By individu- 
alizing them and making them realize they are an essential part 
of the play, the stage gains depth. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

The director of formal plays should never have individuals in 
mobs make incoherent sounds. They should all speak and shout 
full meaningful remarks. To achieve this, the director can have 
each one speak a line individually. Then, like a conductor, he can 
bring up or lower individual voices to create the mob composition. 

EXITS AND ENTRANCES 1 

An actor must have a reason for entering the stage and a rea- 
son for leaving it. There must be sharp focus upon him, if only 



*Cf . WHAT'S BEYOND?, p. 102. 

167 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

for a fleeting moment. It is sharpness in framing such details that 
gives stages clarity and brilliance. 

In formal plays, the playwright and director usually take care 
of this focusing; but many actors neglect this fine point. In im- 
provisational theater, details are often neglected, and exits and 
entrances become fuzzy for the actor. This exercise, then, is de- 
signed to make sharp exits and entrances automatic with student- 
actors. 

EXERCISE A 

First Scene 

Two or more players. 

Where, Who, and What are agreed upon. Ask the teams to 
choose a Where that necessitates many exits and entrances as at a 
party or in a waiting room. Every actor in the scene must, at one 
time or another while playing, make at least one exit and one 
entrance more if the scene permits. Actors may couple up for 
this if they wish. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: the actor is to frame his exit and en- 
trance in any way that he chooses. He is, of course, as in all 
the exercises, limited only by Where, Who, and What. He may 
fly in, walk in, dance in, fall in, sing his way in, laugh or 
scream or talk. "Enter on your upstage foot," commony given 
to drama students as a necessary rule, is simply used to keep 
a player from "hiding" as he comes on stage. This exercise 
suggests that there are many more exciting and challenging 
ways to meet an audience. 

EXERCISE B 
Second Scene 

Reverse the emphasis. Now the other players must frame the 
actor as he exits or enters. 



BEGIN AND END 

This is the time in workshop development to repeat BEGIN 
AND END from the Where sessions (p. 135). The exercise sharply 
delineates off stage from on stage and marks the moment of en- 
trance and exit. 

168 



VIL Refining Awareness 

The actor in improvisational theater must listen to his fellow 
actor and hear everything he says if he is to improvise a scene. 
He must look and see everything that is going on. This is the 
only way players can play the same game together. 

The exercises that follow serve as tools for actors in the formal 
theater as well. They will, if pursued, relieve the actor of rigidity 
and posed movements; for when an actor sees another actor and 
listens to another's dialogue rather than mouthing or sub-vocally 
reading the other actor's lines as memorized along with his own, 
his work has a naturalness on stage. If actors in formal theater 
would see a fellow player opposite them, not a character, their 
work too would be free of "acting." 

That exercises in verbal agility are necessary to the improvi- 
sational actor should be self-evident. Moreover, learning to com- 
municate within silences can lead to heightened moments on 
stage. 

Listening and seeing games should be used throughout work- 
shops. Some good ones are: THROWING LIGHT, NUMBERS CHANGE, 

SINGING SYLLABLES, RING ON A STRING, WHO STARTED THE MOTION 

all to be found in Neva Boyd, Handbook of Games (Chicago: H. 
T. Fitzsimons Co., 1945). 

169 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Listening 

RELATING AN INCIDENT 

A warm-up exercise. Two players. 

Players are on stage. A relates a story to B, who then repeats 
the same story, this time putting color into it. 
EXAMPLE: A narrates. I was walking down the street; and there 
seemed to be a car accident. There was a group of people around 
the car. I wanted to see what had happened; so I used my hands 
to push through the crowd. 

B narrates. I was walking along the grey street; and there seemed 
to be an accident involving a green and black car. There was a 
group of people wearing pink and blue dresses and dark suits 
around the car. I used my flesh-colored hands with the gold ring 
to push through the crowd of blonde and black-haired men and 
women. 

Narration reversed. Now B tells a story to A, and A repeats, with 
color. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. The teacher-director may have to stress eye-contact to the 
players, who, to concentrate on color, turn away from the 
speaker while listening. It may sometimes be best to have 
players jot down colors as they listen, to prevent them from 
postponing colors until the time for re-telling. The purpose 
of this exercise is for the listener to see the incident in full 
color at the moment of listening to it. 

2. The same exercise can be done with concentration on another 
visual aspect (e.g., various shapes of objects) while listening. 

3. This exercise can be a preliminary step to VERBALIZING THE 
WHERE, p. 128. 

4. Players are not to embellish the re-telling of the story. They 
simply relate what they have heard, bringing color into it. 



TWO SCENES 

Repeat this exercise from the previous chapter (p. 160). It is 
invaluable for getting student-actors to hear one another. 

170 



Refining Awareness 

BASIC BLIND 

Teams of two or more. Materials needed: blindfolds, an abund- 
ance of real props and set pieces, and a telephone. 

After preparing a simple Where, Who, and What, the mem- 
bers of a team should be blindfolded. They must devise a What 
in which many things will be handed from one person to another 
a tea party, for example. The playing must be done with real 
props and set pieces. A scene in which "not seeing" is implicit 
(such as with blind characters or in a dark room) cannot be used. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: The blindfolded players are to move 
about the stage as if they can see. 

SJGDE COACHING: Justify that groping! Follow through on that 
action! Find the chair you were looking for! Hang up your 
hat! Be adventurous! 

EVALUATION 

Did they move naturally? Were all gropings and movements 
justified by their Where, Who, and What? Was such justification 
interesting? (If a player were looking for a chair, he might use 
a swinging hand or rolling body motion as part of his character, to 
justify what might otherwise be groping.) Were they adven- 
turous? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Any groping while hunting for seats, props, etc. must be justi- 
fied through Who (a physical quality of the characters they 
are playing) or What (part of the activity of the scene). If, 
for any reason, a player leaves the playing area, he is to re- 
main blindfolded until the end of the scene. 

2. In the beginning, the loss of sight produces great anxiety in 
some players. Often student-actors will not dare venture out 
into the exercise but will sit glued to a seat, hang onto an- 
other person, or stand immobile in one spot. Side coaching 
and the use of the telephone will help. The telephone will 
move the frightened, clinging student away from his "straw.' 1 ' 
The teacher simply rings the bell and asks the student who 
answers to call the student who needs helping to the phone. It 
has also the opposite effect upon some. One student remarked 

171 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

after a blind session: "I feel so much freer doing blind." This 
showed the teacher that this student was still not part of he 
game and still fearful of exposure on stage. When one student 
articulates a feeling, it is certain he speaks for others as well. 

3. Unless children younger than ten are doing this exercise, keep 
opposite sexes on separate teams. Because they are unable 
to see, fear of body contact keeps actors tense and not free 
to solve the problem. Contact such as handing things to each 
other is necessary to the success of this exercise. 

4. If possible, do this exercise in a flat area where there is no 
danger of student-actors falling off stage. This will remove a 
very real fear of doing so. Be sure to avoid using sharp, 
pointed, or breakable props. 

5. Watch for players who might be peeking, so expertly do they 
move from place to place. Go on stage and alter a few things 
here and there and check that blindfolds are secure. 1 



BLIND FOR ADVANCED STUDENTS A 

Students play BASIC BLIND in the regular way. However, they 
must state what they are going to do before following through 
with actions. For example, "I think 111 have some candy" must 
be stated; and then the candy must be sought. A group will have 
to be fairly skilled to do this. 



BLIND FOR ADVANCED STUDENTS B 

Two or more players. 

This exercise puts the audience back into the picture. It is set 
up as was the first Where exercise. 

Two or more blindfolded students assemble on a bare stage 
without props. The floorplan has been drawn on a board that is 
visible to the audience, with words (written large enough for 
them to read) instead of the usual symbols. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION; The actors must use all the objects on 

the board and proceed as if they could see and they must 



3 See comments on the uncertain child, p. 289. 
172 



Refining Awareness 

share with the audience. If an actor achieves close communion 
with the audience, he will know when he has lost his way. 

SIDE COACHING: Share the stage picture! Share your face! 

Summary On Blind Exercise 

By breaking the student-actor's dependency on his sense of 
sight, energy is released into new areas the most important of 
which are hearing and listening. This exercise forces the student- 
actor to develop physical head-to-foot attentiveness to what is 
happening on stage and creates a total bodily awareness of ob- 
jects and fellow players. Because of the total involvement with 
the Point of Concentration in this exercise, BLIND develops an 
awareness of space and sound in space and makes this space a 
living, palpable substance for the player. 

Players must follow through on every action, utilizing contact 
and interchange between people. If one character offers tea to an- 
other, he must then locate that actor and give him the teacup; 
the other actor must, in turn, find the teacup that is being handed 
to him. Or, should an actor make an entrance into a scene as a 
guest and be greeted by his hostess, extended hands must be 
shaken and wraps received and hung up. 

If the scene is a cocktail party, one of the actors may "get 
drunk" and justify his groping or bumping into things this way; 
however, if he thinks of this before going into the scene, it will 
have lost its spontaneity and, therefore, its usefulness. For the 
student's development, it then becomes a rehearsed bit (perfor- 
mance) rather than a working on solving-the-problem during ac- 
tion. 2 Another actor, searching for the art-object his hostess is 
handing to him, may take a few steps at a time as if viewing the 
art-object critically from a distance. This stopping and starting 
and continuing dialogue around the object will help him to lo- 
cate both the hostess and the object he is to handle and will 
justify his "searching." Or, an actor who is having trouble locat- 
ing things may develop a physical (character) quality such as 
mincing steps or a rolling body and swinging arms. 

2 For using BLIND during rehearsal of a formal play, see p. 348. Players 
who continue to grope with their hands have little or no body awareness. 
Repeat SPACE SUBSTANCE EXERCISE (p. 81) as a warm-up for BLIND. 

173 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Any failures to justify relationships to one another should be 
watched for. If A enters the scene saying "Hello!" and holding out 
his hand, B quite naturally will not see it. A must then follow 
through on his action he must let B know his hand is extended to 
him for a handshake; and B, in turn, if he fails to shake hands, 
must have a reason for not seeing or accepting the extended hand 
immediately. An excess of real props and set pieces should be 
used; and players should wear lots of extra hats, bags, etc., to 
make the problem of handing things around more challenging. 



Seeing And Not Staring 

The following exercises emphasize visual involvement with 
fellow players. A student must not only look. He must see if he 
is to "solve the problem." These exercises can be used throughout 
the workshops to precede exercises in relationships of a more com- 
plex nature. For the director of formal theater, they can be inter- 
jected throughout rehearsals, using the dialogue and actions of 
the script. 

Staring is a curtain in front of the eyes as surely as though the 
eyes were closed. It is a mirror reflecting the actor to himself. 
It is isolation. Student-actors who stare but do not see prevent 
themselves from directly experiencing their environment and 
entering into relationships. 

Staring is easily detected by watching for certain physical 
characteristics: namely, a flat look to the eyes and a rigidity to the 
body. Gibberish will quickly show the teacher-director the de- 
gree to which this problem exists in his student-actors. One adult 
player who consistently resisted the POC and avoided contact 
with his fellow players in every way by playing "characters" had 
a breakthrough on this problem. 3 When it was pointed out that 
he was working on a character and not on the problem of seeing, 
he replied, "How can I see if I am not a character?" "Well, how 
can you?" he was asked. He thought this through seriously and 
was most perplexed. A further question was asked: "What do you 
do when you see?" He could think of no answer but, "You just 



3 See Chapter XII. 
174 



Refining Awareness 

look." That was the answer. "That is all the problem is asking you 
to do, to see/' 

When the teacher-director can induce the actor to see, even 
momentarily, he will observe how the face and body become 
more pliant and more natural as muscle holds and fear of contact 
disappear. When an actor sees, direct contact with others is the 
result. This can be translated into what is commonly called 
"feeling." 

MIRROR EXERCISE #4 

This exercise is ordinarily to be used some time after WOBD 
GAME. It can be used earlier, however, if the teacher-director 
feels students have a good understanding of Where, Who and 
What. 

By this time, students have learned and now respond to the 
meaning of sharing with the audience. The audience has now 
lost the role of "judge" for them and has become part of the 
experience. However there still may be a strong resistance to in- 
volvement on the part of some students, evidenced by the editing, 
judging, joking, and playwriting that persists in their work. In 
such a case, it may well be that the actor is being his own audi- 
ence in the most subtle sense. This exercise will help eliminate 
the "last judge" the actor himself. 

The exercise is done exactly as MIRROR EXERCISE #2 (p. 66), 
except that where that lesson emphasized simple activity, the 
actors must now strive to mirror the feelings of the other actors. 
Have teams add Where, Who, and What (or problem) to a scene 
between two people. Suggest a scene of intimate or personal 
nature where there will not be too much moving around (e.g., 
sweethearts at a drive-in movie, husband and wife working on 
budget late at night). Since the actors are after a more complex 
observation of relationships, too much movement can defeat the 
purpose of the exercise. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

After this exercise, there should be greater intensity and involve- 
ment with the total stage picture in the student-actor's work. If 
not, repeat the exercise at a later date; it has probably been used 
too soon. 

175 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

GIBBERISH #1 

GIBBERISH #1, outlined on p. 123 (selling or demonstrating 
something to audience ) can be used very successfully to empha- 
size seeing and not staring. This exercise has probably already 
been done in the ninth or tenth session of Where. 

For the director of formal theater whose actors are staring, 
GIBBERISH #1 will be a great assist. 



EYE CONTACT #] 

Single player. 

Each student-actor must sell, demonstrate, or teach some- 
thing to the audience. His Point of Concentration is on making 
physical, prop, or eye contact with every member of the audience 
during the course of his speech. 

EVALUATION 

Did the actor make physical contact as well as eye contact 
with the audience? Did he contact every member of the audience 
in some way? 

PITCHMAN 

Single player. 

Each student-actor must sell or demonstrate something to the 
audience. After he has gone through his speech once, have him 
repeat it again but this time, he must make himself a pitchman. 

EVALUATION 

Discuss the difference between the two speeches. Why did 
the pitching make the scene come to life? The student audience 
will recognize that a pitchman has to convince his audience and 
must therefore keep himself closely involved with them. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

PITCHMAN is also done with GIBBERISH #1 



EYE CONTACT #2 

Two or more players, Where, Who, and What are agreed upon. 

176 



Refining Awareness 

This exercise should follow CONTACT (p. 184) and should be 
repeated at intervals throughout training. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: actor must make direct eye contact 
with other players and direct his eyes to the prop or stage 
area to which he is referring. 

EXAMPLE: Mary enters the room to visit John. 

John: "Hello, Mary" (Eye contact to Mary). "Won't you come 

into the room?" (Eye contact to room). 

Mary: "Hello, John" (Eye contact to John). "Here's the book I 
said I'd bring" (Eye contact directly to book). "Do you want 
it?" (Eye contact to John). 

EVALUATION 

Did they solve the problem? Was extra focus (energy) given 
at the time of eye contact? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

To get the heightened energy or extra focus, the teacher-director 
should suggest that their eyes take a closeup as with a camera. 
It is good to get this heightened focus at the time of eye contact, 
even though it may be exaggerated. In time, student-actors will 
learn to integrate eye contact with all his work (subtly). 



SHADOWING 4 

Four or more players. 

(This exercise should not be done before the fifth or sixth month 
of training and should be repeated at varying intervals.) 

Teams sub-divide. Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Sub- 
team A plays the scene and sub-team B shadows them. Floorplan 
is known by all> actors and shadows alike. Shadows make con- 
tinuous comment to the actors they are shadowing. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on the Where, Who, and What. 



4 See DUBBING, p. 227, and VEKBALIZING THE WHEBE, p. 128, for material 
to be used in conjunction with this exercise. 

177 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

EXAMPLE: Where bedroom. Who husband and wife. What 
getting dressed to go out. 

As sub-team A goes through the scene, one member of sub-team 
B shadows the husband, and the other shadows the wife. The 
shadows should stay close to the actor and speak quietly so that 
the other actor and shadow do not hear. 

Why does she always hog the mirror? Do you see the brown 
flecks in her eyes? Are you going to let him wear that tie? The 
picture of your mother on the wall is crooked. Why dont you 
help her zip up her dress? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Shadows are not to direct, to take over the action, but merely 
implement and strengthen the actor's physical reality at his 
own (the shadow's) discretion. 

2. Caution: this is a fairly advanced problem and should not be 
given until the group members have already shown some 
degree of breakthrough and insight into former problems. 

3. Shadows can comment on inner action if desired. If scene 
becomes "soap opera/' however, stop exercise and keep 
shadows commenting on the physical objects in the environ- 
ment. It can be deliberately used this way, however, if a 
soap-opera scene for performance is wanted. 



Verbal Agility 



The following exercises are designed to help the student- 
actors toss dialogue, as a ball, back and forth among themselves, 
so as to constantly keep building the scene. As the actor in impro- 
visational theater must verbalize on the run, so to speak, the fol- 
lowing problems should facilitate verbal agility and the place 
of dialogue within a scene. 

Dialogue must be used to further tension between players, 
not to impede it. Building dialogue goes hand in hand with 
building action. 

178 



Refining Awareness 
THROWING LIGHT GAME 6 

Four or more players. 

Two players secretly decide upon a topic of conversation. 
They then begin discussing the topic in the presence of the other 
players. Their Point of Concentration is to mislead the others 
as to the identity of the topic they are discussing. They may 
not use any false statements during their discussion. 

The other players may not ask questions nor guess the topic 
aloud. But when a player thinks he knows what the topic is, he is 
to join in the conversation. At any time after he has joined in 
the conversation, he may be challenged. When this occurs, he 
must whisper what he thinks the topic is to one of the two conver- 
sation leaders. If he has guessed correctly, he continues to par- 
ticipate in the conversation. If he is incorrect, he is one-third out 
of die game and must become an observer again until he has a 
new guess and rejoins the conversation. A player may join in 
the conversation for some time without arousing suspicion and 
being challenged. 

The game goes on until all the players have either guessed 
correctly and joined the conversation or have made three wrong 
guesses and are out of the game. 



STORY-TELLING 

Here use the exercise outlined on p. 312. 



STORY-BUILDING 

Four or more players. 

YARN 

The first player starts a story about anything he wishes. As 
the game progresses, the leader points out various players who 
must immediately step in and continue the story from the point 
where the last player left off. This is continued until the story has 
been completed or until the leader calls a halt. 



^Adapted from Neva L. Boyd, Handbook of Games (Chicago: H. T. 
Fitzsimons Co., 1945), p, 87. 

179 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATEB 

RHYME 

First player gives one line, second player adds a line, and so 
on. All lines must rhyme. Leader can point out at random a player 
to supply the next line to add an extra challenge to the exercise. 
The game can also be played so that every player missing the 
rhyme drops out. 

SONG 

Using rhyme as a singing vehicle was charmingly done at 
Second City in Chicago during the Christmas holidays with the 
madrigal form. The audience was asked to name an object or an 
event. And this object or event was sung by each person in line 
and picked up in a tra-la-la chorus by the whole group. The can- 
tata or oratorio form can be used similarly. 

POETRY-BUILDING 

Teams of four or more. 

Each person in the group writes out the following on indi- 
vidual slips of paper: an adjective, a noun, a pronoun, a verb, an 
adverb. 

Then the slips of paper are placed in separate piles according 
to their classification, and these piles are jumbled up. They must 
then pick up five slips and construct a poem from the five words 
they have chosen, adding prepositions and other parts of speech 
if necessary. 

When ready, the groups compare their poems. 

CONTRAPUNTAL ARGUMENT A 

Two players and a timekeeper and a scorer. 

The players begin an argument involving both of them, with 
both developing and unfolding his own theme. They are to talk 
simultaneously and without pause. The object is for each player 
to avoid letting the other interrupt his argument. Scoring should 
be set up on the basis of how often each player is stopped; points 
are lost with hemming and hawing, saying yes or no, with re- 
peats of other players lines, with stoppages of any sort, with 
any "dribbling of the ball" or just "treading water" and not con- 
tinuing unfolding of point of view. Example: husband and wife 

180 



Refining Awareness 

discussing last night's party. Time limit of from one to two min- 
utes must be decided upon. 

CONTRAPUNTAL ARGUMENT B 

Two players. 

The players simultaneously carry on a discussion or argu- 
ment in which each keeps his own point of view. 

Scoring should be set up on the basis of how many times 
each player succeeds in getting the other player to pick up on 
his point of view. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: each player avoids picking up and 
repeating any subject matter from the other player, while at 
the same time trying to get the other player to pick up con- 
tent from his point of view. 

CONTRAPUNTAL ARGUMENT C 

Two players. 

In this exercise (which calls for transformation of the point 
of view) players keep to their own points of view as in the 
previous contrapuntal arguments but at the same time pick up 
from each other. They are to "explore and heighten" (as in the ex- 
ercise with that title, p. 235) what they have received. They 
are to talk simultaneously. No time limit is necessary. 
SIDE COACHING: Talk to each other! Keep your own point of mewl 
You're together! (In trying to concentrate, some players 
work "alone/' which forestalls the solving of the problem.) 
Penetrate his point of view! Expand your point of mew! Ex- 
pand your partners point of view! 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Argument as used here relates to discourse or point of view 
and not to debate or conflict. It is sometimes difficult for 
student-actors to realize that people might hold different 
points of view without imposing or being in conflict ( and have 
a right to it). 

2. Players must talk to each other and not at each other. 

3. As in all transformation exercises, this is not to become a work- 
out in association or inventiveness springing from a limited 

181 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATEK 

or prejudiced view of something. Suggest that players avoid 
all words that bring in subject, whether it be *%" "you," or 
mention of the "subject" itself. This will prevent agreement 
or disagreement from sliding into mere back-and-forth chit- 
chat. When keen penetration of each other's points of view 
is made and both players' points of view expand, "I," "you," 
and "subject 9 * are brought in as part of the content rather than 
as a "hanging on" point, and the players transcend their points 
of view. An intuitive jump between players seems to take 
place (see Points of Observation in USING OBJECTS TO EVOLVE 

SCENES, p, 212), 

4. If players do not solve this problem, come back to it after 

USing TBANSFORMATION OF RELATIONSHIP (p. 000). In that 

exercise "transforming" becomes more understandable be- 
cause it is on a physical level. Interestingly enough, when 
CONTRAPUNTAL ARGUMENT exercises succeed, players physical- 
ize, for it becomes impossible just to sit and verbalize. The 
point of view takes over the player from head to foot, and 
he is there, so to speak. 

5. It is interesting to try this exercise in singles, wherein each 
player transforms his own material. This would be for ad- 
vanced students. 

6. Suggested homework: have student-actors write out a series 
of transformations. This should clarify the point that action 
or change can come only from apprehending and exhausting 
each present moment. 



WANDERING SPEECH A 

Two players. 

Where and Who agreed upon. One person is delayed from 
getting information or completing an activity because of the 
chattiness of the other person, who keeps talking, changing sub- 
ject, and digressing into different areas of conversation. 

Reverse so that both players have chance at chatty role. They 
may change the Where and Who at this time if they wish. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to unintentionally digress from com- 
pleting the desired activity through random speech. 

182 



Refining Awareness 

EXAMPLES: Who chatty customer and salesman. Where de- 
partment store. What customer has come to buy something for 
his wife's Christmas present. 

Customer is chatty. Salesman tries to make a sale, but customer 
keeps digressing. 

Who chatty nurse's aid and hospital visitor. Where information 
desk in hospital. What visitor needs admission card to get on 
elevator. 

Nurse's aid uses telephone, gives directions to others, etc., while 
visitor stands by trying to get card from her. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Hostility is not a part of this exercise. The chatty person is not 
to deliberately set up an obstacle. The digression is to be a 
purely innocent, friendly one. 

2. If the Point of Concentration is held, a great deal of humor 
will develop, and the result will be many charming vignettes. 
The exercise is very helpful for development of scene material. 



WANDERING SPEECH B 

Three players. 

One player (A) is the center. The other two players (B and 
C) are each absorbed with their own trend of thought and/or 
activity. They come to the center player for comment, advice, 
etc. while completely ignoring each other. 

EXAMPLE: Where living room. Who hostess, two guests. What 

visiting. 

Guest B is examining the family album and making comments 

and asking questions of the hostess A. Guest C is talking about 

the problems of a mutual friend. 

POESTTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. The center player (A) must be equally attentive and respon- 
sive to both B and C. 

2. This can be played with many more players. Avoid situations 
where multiple demands for attention are built in and there- 
fore not challenging (as teacher and pupils). Change around 
and allow each member of team to be the center player. 

183 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Contact- 
Contact can provoke many highly dramatic scenes. Since the 
actors cannot verbalize everything, they must stand and think. 
And so, the schism between expression and thought begins to 
dissolve, and the student-actors begin to find more economy in 
dialogue and movement. 

While it is probably true that the fear of making physical 
contact may be tied up with psychological problems, it is not our 
role to deal with this. If we present only objective problems 
which are solvable, however, many subjective resistances such 
as these may be washed away. 

The complex CONTACT EXERCISE has been a dramatic turning 
point for many student-actors. It develops a closer communica- 
tion and a deeper relationship with fellow actors because of the 
necessity of physical touch. 

In CONTACT, the absolute necessity of staying with the Point 
of Concentration creates a greater stage intensity. As the student 
thinks his way around the stage, his concentration is put more 
directly on his own resources, and the stage business is given 
infinite variety as more subtlety and nuances are brought into his 
work. 

CONTACT also intensifies scenes for the written script and is 
extremely useful to the director rehearsing a formal play. It 
teaches the student-actor that he can be a part of a scene even 
if he is not the center of action. The overly verbal student-actor 
is forced to stop idle chatter in order to solve the problem: no 
contact, no dialogue. 



CONTACT EXERCISE 

Two players. 

Who, What, and Where are agreed upon. The student-actor 
is to make a direct physical contact (touch) as each new thought 
or phrase of dialogue is introduced. With each change of dia- 
logue, a different physical contact must be made. 

Actor who originates the dialogue is to make the contact; each 
actor is responsible for his own dialogue and contact. Non-ver- 
bal communication (nods, whistles, shoulder shrugs, etc.) is 

184 



Refining Awareness 

acceptable without contact. If contact cannot be made, there is 
to be no dialogue. The teacher-director tells student actors that 
when he call "Contact!" they have used dialogue without physi- 
cally touching the other player. (A demonstration of this exer- 
cise might be a useful preliminary for student-actors.) 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to make a new direct physical contact 

with each new thought or phrase of dialogue. 
EXAMPLE: The doorbell rings, and John opens the door for his 
friend, Jim. 

"Hello, Jim. Nice to see you" ( contact by shaking hands) . 

That was one phrase, one whole thought. If John wants to say 
more, such as "Come in and sit down," he must make a fresh con- 
tact (e.g., he might put his arm around Jim and lead him to the 
chair ) . 

"Nice shirt you're wearing" says Jim (contact by touching the 
chest or shoulders, not the shirt) . 

Jim sits down, and John goes to the table, half a stage away. It 
looks as if they are immersed in a great deal of concentration and 
thought. There is even a faint suggestion of some intense emo- 
tion in the air actually, they are merely thinking of how to make 
the next contact. 

Jim gets up from his chair, book in hand, and goes to John 
poking him with his knee to make him turn around. 

"Say, have you seen this story?" 

John takes the book (this is not contact, unless the hands touch). 
He leafs through a few pages, and Jim walks back to chair. How 
can John answer Jim, who is on the other side of the stage, 
and still be a part of the reality of the scene? John continues to 
thumb the pages of the book as he works on the problem of 
contact. He gives himself over to the POC, looks up from the 
book, let out a long whistle, and laughs and clicks his tongue 
as he communicates his response to the book Jim has given him, 
because he has no way of making physical contact. 

Actors not yet adept at contact suddenly realize that a good fight 
would solve all their problems as indeed it does. So, what 
they have now discovered as they throw each other around the 

185 



IMPROVISATION FOB THE THEATER 

stage, is that a conflict will strengthen any contact situation. 
However, a fight, like any huddle scene, is the easy way out. 

Actors should work toward the less obvious ways of making 
contact. 

SIDE COACHING: Use your full stage! Move around stage! More 
variety of contact! Contact! Be quiet if you cant -find a 
contact there's no need to talk. Keep your point of concentra- 
tion! 

This exercise can be varied by having each team make con- 
tact twice. The first time, they help each other to make contact. 
The second time they put obstacles in the way of each other. In 
the first instance (helping), actors would move towards each 
other, sit in close groupings, etc. In the latter instance (ob- 
stacle), players would stand at distances from each other, find 
reasons for moving away from each other, etc. 

EVALUATION 

In addition to the regular questions involving the scene, 
some questions related specifically to CONTACT might be: Did 
you keep asking yourself, "How can I make contact"? Was all 
contact justified? Was contact "stuck on" after dialogue? Did 
you work upon the Point of Concentration, or was the scene im- 
posed upon the problem? Were you concerned with the activity 
or the problem? Did you create dialogue and action? 

Was new contact made at every new thought grouping or 
phrase of dialogue? What could they have done to make their 
contact fresher? Was involvement between players greater be- 
cause of contact? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Contact should be subtle and related to the character rela- 
tionships, not to the dialogue alone. It should be natural 
and spontaneous, not forced. 

2. Keep the problem challenging. Have the actors avoid scenes 
where they are all huddled together. 

3. Let the student-actor find his own ways of putting variety 
into make contact. Fingers can rumple hair, feet can kick, 
there can be jostling, bumping, pushing with the hips, 
falling into one another's arms, etc. 

186 



Refining Awareness 

4. If the student-actors complain that they cannot find ways of 
making variety in contact, remind them that there are other 
ways of communicating besides dialogue (see Chapter V). 

5. No contact is necessary if there is no dialogue, but do not 
allow actors to avoid the problem by doing a completely 
silent scene. Remind them (only if absolutely necessary) 
that they may communicate through singing, laughing, cry- 
ing, coughing in fact, any sound without making contact. 

6. Keep student-actors from planning contact during prepara- 
tion of scene ("When I tap you on the shoulder, you ...."). 

7. Student-actors who resist contact usually have a personal 
fear of touching another person. Going back and doing more 
intense work in the earlier problems of relationships, body 
work, and space substance should help student-actors break 
through this fear. Such resistances show themselves in the 
following manner: 

A. General irritation at having to find variety. They will con- 
tinue to use hands and poke at each other for contact. 
This constitutes pushing others away from them, which 
is the exact opposite of what we are trying to achieve. 

B. Trying to make contact through props. 

C. Using only the most casual, socially restricted contact 
(tapping on shoulders, etc. ) . 

8. A homework assignment is of definite value here. Ask stu- 
dent-actors to spend five minutes a day consciously making 
contact with whomever they may be with. They should not 
tell this person what they are doing. The class period follow- 
ing this assignment should devote some time to a discussion 
of what they observed. 

9. If student-actors will not wait for the Point of Concentra- 
tion to work for them and still feel urgent about making 
something happen themselves, they will fall into irrelevant 
ad-libbing, poke at each other intsead of making real contact, 
and invent useless activity, When this happens, it is an 
indication that they are not ready for contact. Go to the 
next exercise, on silence, and return to contact at another 
time. 

10. When student-actors can solve the contact problem by mak- 
ing their physical contact an integrated, organic part of the 

187 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

scene and not something "stuck on," their work will de- 
velop subtlety of relationship and will provide enriched con- 
tent for the scene. 

11. When the actors work fully on the Point of Concentration, 
laughter, crying, singing, coughing, etc., come into very 
unique use as means to solve the problem. Then we will 
have an advanced group of competent actors. 

12. CONTACT is an excellent problem from which to observe 
your student-actors who are still resisting involvement and 
relationship. 



Silence 



In the silence exercises the student-actor is not to substitute 
sub-vocal or unspoken words but is to concentrate on the silence 
itself and learn to communicate through it. True silence creates 
an openness between players and a flow of very evident energy, 
making it possible for them to reach into deeper personal re- 
sources. These exercises done with an advanced group of 
players often result in uncanny clarity on a non-verbal level of 
communication . 



SILENT TENSION 

Two or more players (two preferred). 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Scene is played. Tension 
between players is so strong they are unable to speak. There will 
be no dialogue during this scene as a result. Where, Who, and 
What must be communicated through the silence. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: a moment of intense involvement with 

fellow players where communication is made with the silence. 
EXAMPLES: Two players. Where restaurant. Who two sweet- 
hearts. What have just broken their engagement. Three players. 
Where bedroom. Who old man who is dying, son, daughter-in- 
law. What couple are waiting for his death, and he knows it. 
Four or more players. Where mining area. Who men, women, 
and children. What waiting for news of missing men, 

188 



Refining Awareness 

EVALUATION 

Did we know where they were, who they were? Did they 
have a silent scene or one without words? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. This exercise usually produces highly dramatic scenes, for it 
necessitates intensly close contact with fellow players. 

2. If Point of Concentration is understood, this problem pro- 
duces a tremendous amount of eye contact and is therefore 
useful for students who are still "hiding/' 

3. Sometimes calling out "Give and take!" is useful here. 

4. Take care not to give this exercise too early in the training. 

5. Often these scenes end in a single scream, a laugh, or some 
sound. Do not tell this to students, however. If they solve the 
problem, it will come spontaneously. If an actor says, "I 
wanted to scream but thought you didn't want us to," he 
was working not on the problem but on the teacher for 
approval. 

The following NO MOTION exercises offer another means of 
stopping compulsive cerebral activity, expressed in questions and 
wordiness that keep players out of contact and relationship. No 
Motion is the static used dynamically to punctuate scenes and 
increase stage tension. It is a way of communicating process and 
suspense to actors and audience alike. It is the preoccupation 
that holds the energy content of a scene. 

It should be preceded by a warm-up with SPACE SUBSTANCE 
(p. 81), dwelling upon the No Motion Warm-Up in particular. 
This will remind the players once again that out of concentrating 
on No Motion all necessary movement evolves. 



NO MOTION #\ 

Two players. 

Players agree on an immediate environment, such as a res- 
taurant, car, in bed, etc., and decide on a Who in which relation- 
ship between them exists in two areas: the one onstage where we 
meet and see them, and another about which we (the audience) 
know nothing; the What or stage occupation is also planned. 
They then work out in the usual manner, using dialogue, and 

189 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

as the action progresses, they use No Motion to accent their 
communication and reveal their relationship. The audience is to 
learn everything about them through this non-verbal communi- 
cation. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: Players are to send a message of No 
Motion to their total organism as in HOW OLD AM i? REPEAT and 

EXCURSIONS INTO THE INTUITIVE. 
POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. No Motion is not a freeze. Its purpose is to create a resting 
or non-thinking area between people precisely when they 
are busy with on-stage dialogue and activity. If done with 
understanding, out of the resting or non-thinking area energy 
bursts through and expresses itself in unique use of props, 
dialogue, intensifies character relationship and builds rising 
tensions within the on-stage scene. 

2. Some players find the words "silence" or "quiet" or "wait" more 
useful to them in achieving the physical feeling necessary for 
the exercise. 

3. As the purpose of the exercise is to stop conceptual thinking, 
and verbalization of the relationship, avoid over-presentation. 
Your players who by now have had WHAT'S BEYOND, and in 
some instances PREOCCUPATION, will know how to handle it. 
An experiment in using this exercise with a group who had 
little if any theater background and only six workshop ses- 
sions was tried. They had been given intense work on all 
aspects of SPACE SUBSTANCE, and repeated work on WHAT DO 

I DO FOR A LIVING REPEAT, HOW OLD AM I REPEAT and MIRROR 

EXERCISE #3. They were asked simply to think No Motion 
or Rest, The result was astonishing. The objects in the imme- 
diate environment came to life to die minutest detail, whether 
it was reaching for an ash tray to drop an ash, or picking up 
and nibbling the crumbs from the table cloth. There were 
great stretches of true improvisation which is rare so early in 
training. Animation, excitement, and elergy abounded in the 
workshop. At first the players found it difficult to look at each 
other and did a lot of giggling as well. In this instance, how- 
ever, it constituted shyness rather than withdrawal, for con- 
tact and recognition had been made between them. It is 

190 



Refining Awareness 

interesting to note that when this problem was done with 
professional improvisational actors their "shyness" was also 
evident. 

4. No Motion does not mean holding back or inhibiting an emo- 
tion or a verbalization, nor is it a censoring mechanism. This, 
then, would make every scene an "acting" scene. By keeping 
complete occupation on stage, the preoccupation of No Mo- 
tion unfolds the scene step by step. The players are walking 
"the ledge of the cliff" and student-audience and players alike 
are breathlessly involved in the problem. This element of 
suspense should exist in all two-way problems. 



NO MOTION #2 

Single player. 

Where, Who, and What set up. Player is a point of decision. 
POINT OF CONCENTKATION: No Motion to what player is thinking 

and deciding. 



NO MOTION #3 

Two players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Use of general environ- 
ment. Play scene as usual 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: No Motion to heighten relationship. 



NO MOTION #4 

Large group of players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION; No Motion to heighten relationship, 

as in NO MOTION #3. 

EXCURSIONS INTO THE INTUITIVE 

An experiment in dramatic tension without benefit of content. 

Students sit on chairs. Instruct them to sit as if their legs 
grew straight down from their buttocks. This wil give a released, 

191 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

straight line to the spine. Their shoulders should be free of ten- 
sions, and their hands should rest on their thighs. Everyone is to 
concentrate on a slight hissing sound on the exhalation. 6 Eyes 
open, they sit looking on the stage. They are to force nothing and 
to think of nothing. When and if anyone feels the urge to go up 
on stage and do something, he is to do so. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on hissing from the back of the throat. 
SIDE COACHING: Release your shoulders; Concentrate on exhala- 
tion! Look at the stage! Trust yourself! stop thinking what 
to do! 

EXAMPLE: Player A goes on stage, walks around, looks over 
edge as if he is up high. He grabs a chair, climbs onto it. Player B 
walks up to him: "Here, buddy, have a cigarette." Player A stops 
and looks at him: "Thanks." Player B waves as he leaves; player C 
enters and walks slowly back and forth as if in great contempla- 
tion. Player A mirrors him . . . etc. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. With an advanced group, this exercise can be extraordinarily 
interesting, since it invariably leads to an avant-garde type of 
scene. There is often little dialogue as the stage, full of ten- 
sions, comes to life. 

2. Make it clear that students are not to think of something lit- 
eral, nor should they "do something" just for the sake of doing 
something. 

3. After a scene, it is interesting to read into it a literal thread 
or story which can be given to the random stage activity. 
Repeat some scene with the "story." 

4. HOW OLD AM i? REPEAT and similar exercises are preliminary 
steps to this one. 

5. This exercise should not be used until student-actors are a 
group and therefore will not feel "silly" (exposed) . 



Silence Before Scenes 

If students are urgent, rushed, over-active, throwing them- 



6 "In the expiratory phase lies renewal of vigor through some hidden 
form of muscular release" (The Thinking Body, p. 261). 

192 



Refining Awareness 

selves into scenes without thought, have them sit quietly on stage 
before they begin to play. They are to concentrate on exhalation, 
to blank out imagery, and are to sit quietly as long as necessary. 
The action will begin whenever one of the students gets up and 
starts it. 



193 



VIIL Speech, Broadcasting, and 
Technical Effects 

Speech 



Students should not be made overly conscious of their speech 
variances. As they move alone into their stage problems, their 
speech will be cleaned up organically, and this clarity will usually 
carry over into their daily sjDech patters. To quote Marguerite 
Hermann, co-author with her husband Lewis of manuals on 
dialect, "Unless a student has basic speech problems, no great 
change in pronunciation should be forced upon him. A 'cleaning 
up* and 'toning up* should be all that is necessary." 



CALLING-OUT EXERCISE 

Two or more players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. 

Wliere should be a setting in which the player must, of necessity, 
call to each other across a wide distance. 

EXAMPLE: Where cave. Who guide and tourists. What tourists 
are separated from guides. Where mountain top. Who moun- 
tain climbers. What climbers, connected by a long rope, are 
scaling mountain. 

194 



Speech, Broadcasting and Technical Effects 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: keeping vocal contacts at long dis- 
tances. 

EVALUATION 

Was the vocal contact realistic within the situation? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

See that students give a reality to the alleged distance through 
the use of their voices. 



STAGE WHISPER 

Play this exercise the same as CALLING-OUT, only this time the 
actors agree upon a Where in which they are forced to whisper 
to each other, such as a schoolroom, hiding from someone, etc. 

EVALUATION 

Did they talk low or whisper? 

Did the actors share their stage whisper with audience? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

Use this exercise at a time during workshop when whispering 
occurs and the actors cannot be heard. Teacher-director need 
only side-coach "Stage whisper!" from then on to get players to 
respond. 



CHORAL READING 

Two large teams. (This should be given after the students have 
had some elementary introduction to choral reading. ) 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Divide workshop into 
two large groups. Each group or team, breaks down into two 
players and a large choral group (with one person as "conduc- 
tor"). Choral group sits or stands on stage right and left, or on 
risers if available. Two players play scene out with choral group 
supplying background music, sound effects, etc. 

POINT OF CONCENTKATION: choral group is to watch their con- 
ductor for cues. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION: Useful for public performance. 

195 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

GREEK CHORUS 

Two large teams. (This exercise is used primarily with very 
young actors.) 

Same set-up as CHORAL READING. Choose a children's game and 
have the chorus sing the verses as the actors act them out. Chorus 
can also do sound effects, such as wind, birds, etc. 
EXAMPLES: Thome Rosa. All Around the Mulberry Bush. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

Useful for public performance. 

A variation: Set up a structure in the usual way using a Greek 
Chorus for underlining (through chanting) the stage action- 
similar tO SHADOWING and STORY-TELLING. 



TWO SCENES 

Repeat TWO SCENES, p. 160. Excellent for developing clarity 
and resonance in the student-actors' speech. 

WHISPER-SHOUT EXERCISE 

Two or more players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Players do same scene 
three times. The first time, they whisper; the second time, they 
shout; and the third time, they speak in their normal voices. A 
variation is to have the team choose a setting where whispering, 
shouting, and normal speech can be integrated into one scene. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: released throat. 

EXAMPLE: Where jail cell Who prisoners. What planning a 
break. This scene had ample room for all three voice ranges and 
was a highly effective, dramatic presentation. 

EVALUATION 

Follow the usual lines of evaluation. Include the question: 
was the voice more resonant in normal speech after whisper- 
shout? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. The need to be heard in the whispering sequence helps the 
student-actor to realize that the total body is involved in 

196 



Speech? Broadcasting and Technical Effects 

speech. If he whispers properly, with full projection, his voice 
will be resonant and free from throat sounds. The teacher 
should listen carefully for tensed throats this tension means 
the problem has not been solved. 

2. To shout with released throat, the student-actor will have to 
keep his tones full, round, and extended. Instead of a clipped 
"Hello there," "Heelllooo theeerrrrre" is usually the result. 
If he just yells, then he is using throat tension and has not 
solved the problem. 

3. When the players do the third scene, using normal speech, 
have the audience listen carefully to determine whether or 
not the group members are maintaining released throats. 

4. The three scenes should take no more than a total of fifteen 
minutes. To insure this, give time warnings. 

Radio And TV 

The radio and television exercises are intended not to train 
the actor specifically for radio or television but to focus his ener- 
gies within the limitations of each medium. The radio workshop 
is recommended at least once a month. However, it should not 
begin until after the students have handled enough improvisa- 
tions to be able to use a Point of Concentration as the acting 
problem demands. 

Here the actor works on the problem of showing his audience 
only through his voice. He must be able to select those things 
which will allow the audience to see the story "through their 
ears/* 

In radio exercises, the scenes take place behind the curtain, 
since we are concerned with the voices alone. The Point of Con- 
centration is to show the Where and Who by voice and sound 
alone, without telling in so many words. Each improvisation 
should have one or two sound men who do nothing but open and 
close doors, push back chairs, ring bells, howl like the wind, etc. 
Sound effects are not to be planned any more than dialogue. 

For formal theater, using the microphone technique to clean 
up a problem of voice in a character is often useful. This brings 
focus to the problem without giving it undue critical attention. 

197 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Among materials useful for radio exercises are a tape recorder 
and a curtain to separate actors from the audience's vision. It is 
wise to rig up a sound table with bells, buzzers, a small wind 
machine, a rain box, a door, a box of broken glass, a turntable, a 
few recordings, newspaper, chalk, blackboard, etc. 

For preliminary work, a short discussion on radio itself is 
advisable, so that students will be able to clarify what they are 
trying to do. The problem of showing rather than telling in this 
medium is most challenging. 

When you listen to the radio? what happens? The answer will 
arrive eventually: "The listener sees the story." 

Then, when you do a radio improvisation, what are you 
trying to do? "Let the audience see the story in their minds." 

How can we show we are in a classroom by the use of sound 
and voice alone, without telling our audiences where we are? 
"By using physical objects over the microphone." 

Give some examples of physical objects which make sounds 
appropriate to a classroom? "Chalk could squeak on the black- 
board . . . some could use the pencil sharpener ... a lot of chairs 
could be pushed back from desks as the lunch bell rang." 

On the problem of relationships, which also arises in the radio 
scenes: How can we show a mother and son? "The boy could 
come in and say, "Hello . . . I'm back from the store. Can I go out 
and play now?* " 

A discussion held in the same way as questioning during 
Where sessions will stimulate actors to find for themselves many 
sounds especially pertinent to a classroom, a kitchen, or a living 
room. 



FIRST RADIO EXERCISE 

Three or more players. 

Who decided upon. Each actor makes list of the character- 
istics he is attempting to convey: age, weight, temperament, 
coloring, etc. The members of the student-audience are to make 
their own list of characteristics as the action progresses. When 
playing is over, lists are compared. 



Speech, Broadcasting and Technical Effects 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: OH showing WllO. TllTOUgll the SaiBC 

procedure but with a minimum of sound and dialogue, the 
Point of Concentration can be changed to: showing Where. 
EXAMPLE: Where a country schoolhouse. Who the teacher and 
her class; teacher is about forty-five and rather dislikes teach- 
ing! one boy in the fourth grade is "slow." After the inevitable 
commercial, the program opens. 

Teacher: Three times three equals? 

Class: (in unison) Nine. 

Teacher: Three times four equals? 

Class : Twelve. 

Teacher: Three time five equals? 

Class: Fifteen. 

Teacher: Did you open your mouth Johnny? Did you know the 
answer or didn't you? Speak up! 

Johnny: No, ma'am. 

Teacher: You will kindly come up and write down every answer 
the class gives. 

Sound: Sound man pushes back chair and gets chalk ready 
for blackboard. 

Teacher: Again . . . where were we? Oh, yes. Three times six 
equals? 

Class: Eighteen. 

Sound : Chalk on blackboard. 

Teacher: That's an awfully sloppy-looking eight. Three times 
seven? 

Class: Twenty-one. 

Sound : Chalk on board. 

Teacher: Johnny! What do you have in your pocket? 

Sound: Sound man peeps like a little chick. 

Class: Laughter. 

Teacher: Johnny! I asked you what you have in your pockets! 

199 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Sound: Sound man peeps like a little chick. 
Class : More laughter. 

EVALUATION 

After the improvisation, the student-audience compiles their 
impressions about each character to see how closely they coin- 
cide with the actor's lists. 

How old was the teacher? What did she look like? How many 
students were in the class? How old were they. Was it a city or a 
country school? How did you know? 

Did they show us Where and Who by sound and voice alone? 
Most often, some things are shown while others are told. How 
could they have made that point clear without telling us? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Try to avoid the omnipotent narrator. When students put 
their minds to solving Where and Who, there will be no need 
for him. 

2. The acting problems in WORD GAME or THEME SCENE can also 
be used for radio improvisations; but the problems of Where 
and Who will more than likely keep a group busy for some 
time. 



ANIMAL IMPROVISATIONS 

See CHARACTER, p. 262. 

Animal improvisations for building character can also help 
with speech. One boy with a high, thin voice was given the ani- 
mal image of a hippo to help him with a character. By working on 
this visualization in his scenes, he was able to lower his voice tone 
considerably. 



Children's Introduction To Radio 



The seven-to-nine-year-olds will enjoy working at radio (using 
a tape recorder) and listening to playbacks of what has been 
recorded. This is the best way to work on speech with young chil- 

200 



Speech, Broadcasting and Technical Effects 

dren; for, since it is necessary for them to speak clearly in order 
to share with an audience, they learn to work on cleaning up 
their own speech. A "Man-on-the-Street" type of exercise is useful 
in introducing this age group to radio exercises, since it allows 
even the most timid child to speak and to hear his voice in play- 
back 



MAN-ON-THE-STREET A 

An assistant should be the "man-on-the-street" in all these 
exercises, since he is more skilled in drawing the children into 
conversation than another child would be. 

Interviewer: "Hello . . . hello . . . and who are you, little 
girl?" The child then gives her name and address, etc. 

MAN-ON-THE-STREET B 

After the initial name-and-address interview, the assistant can 
suggest other characters, and the students must then respond. 

Interviewer: "Well . . . here comes an old man. Hello, old 
man." 



MAN-ON-THE-STREET C 

Now have the interviewer suggest animal images which the 
children must take on when they speak. 

Interviewer: "Well, here comes a cat! Hello, cat! How are 
you this morning?'* "Meow, meow . . . I'm fine." 

Many children will respond initially in this stereotyped ex- 
pression of an animal. Suggest that they speak with the sound 
of the real animal in mind. Have them try to recall the speech 
rhythm of the animal as they have heard it i.e., the dog would 
be staccato, the cow would be long and heavy, etc. 

For variation, have the child suggest the animal by altering 
his speech patterns. The interviewer must then guess what ani- 
mal he is interviewing. 

Interviewer: "Well, here comes someone! And how are you 
today?" Child: "Eeeeooowww . . . Illlllmmmmmm . . fiiiinn 
nneeeooww." 

201 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



When the interviewer cannot identify the animal, then the 
child is forced to clarify his speech. It is interesting to watch 
the swift development of young students in terms of speech and 
uses of tone of voice when this exercise is given. 



TELEVISION EXERCISE 

Four or more players (a director a cameraman, and actors). 

Director casts his actors and gives them a scene to enact. 
There should be a definite Where; scene should be simple (per- 
haps part of a larger scene), and should not be longer than three 
or four minutes. 

A camera can be simulated with a large theater spotlight on 
wheels, a photographer's floodlight with long cord, or even a 
flashlight. The important thing is that light may be turned on 
and off. Microphone and earphone are not difficult to imitate with 
batteries and wires. They are not indispensable, although they 
add greatly to enjoyment of exercise. 

Cameraman follows the scene with his light, moving in for 
close-ups, back for long shots, etc. Student-audience can tell 
what shots have been taken only by where the light falls. The 
light is the camera's eye the picture being taken. 

Players go through a dry-run rehearsal without camera. Di- 
rector makes a few changes here and there. Cameraman moves in 
and out to warm up. Then the camera lights up, and they are 
on the air 

EXAMPLE: Dining-room scene. Family is eating dinner. The 
little girl does not want to eat her spinach. The parents plead, ca- 
jole, and threaten. Finally she eats the spinach. End of scene. 

EVALUATION 

Did the actors take directions from the director? Have a full 
discussion of this. All will get a chance to be director and will 
soon understand the necessity in theater for following direction. 
The youngest actors become easy to handle during rehearsal of 
a play after they have been "Director." 

Did the cameraman take the most interesting shots? First ask 
the cameraman himself, and then the student audience. Where 

202 



Speech, Broadcasting and Technical Effects 

might the cameraman have made his shots clearer and more in- 
teresting? How? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

Before beginning the exercises, a quick discussion on the basic 
camera shots (long shot, medium shot, closeup) is helpful. 



Technical Effects 



It is most important that every student learn to improvise 
using the technical aspects of the theater. 

In early workshop sessions, the teacher-director would do well 
to initiate a short demonstration of the workings of the sound 
and lighting equipment, with particular emphasis on the result- 
ing effects and moods. Students should take turns handling the 
equipment and producing the effects until they are familiar with 
the set-up. 

When a basic understanding has been achieved, then assign 
technical crew members to each team, alerting them to improvise 
any sound or lighting effect the scene might demand. Or have 
each group select one or two of its members to handle lights and 
sound. 

In improvisational theater the necessity that technical skill 
be used in improvisations should be obvious. Lights, sound, music 
and dialogue must all become an organic part of the unfolding 
scene. This spontaneous selection of effects and placing them into 
a scene at die time of improvisation gives the student-actors 
an added alertness and sensitivity to what is going on. As in the 
exercise SENDING SOMEONE ON STAGE, the actors on stage must re- 
spond and act upon the new element introduced into the scene. 



INTEGRATION OF ON-STAGE 
AND BACK-STAGE ACTION A 

Two or more players on stage. Two or more players back stage. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Where should offer 

many opportunities for effects (a forest, desert, home, farm, etc.). 

203 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

On-stage players must play scene and cue back-stage players 
for effects as they go along ("It's getting dark outside ... do 
you think there'll be a storm? It's time for the rooster to crow 
. . .") or through physicalization. Reverse teams. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to integrate the on-stage action with 

appropriate technical effects. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. This exercise can be done successfully with children as young 
as five years old. If the sound effects are simple to handle and 
a simple lighting set-up is available, any child can carry out 
the technical cues. 

2. This exercise has an extraordinary maturing value for the very 
young actor, who suddenly finds himself handling the out- 
come of a scene, as he responds to the actors' need for him. 

3. Many other acting problems can be adapted or developed 
with this purpose in mind. 



INTEGRATION OF ON-STAGE 
AND BACK-STAGE ACTION B 

Same as A, except that in this exercise the back-stage crew 
originates the lighting and sound effects and the on-stage play- 
ers must then improvise around these effects. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: players must play their scene accord- 
ing to the effects provided by the back-stage crew. 



CREATING MOODS ON STAGE 

Three or more players on stage. Two or more players on back- 
stage crew. 

Several Where's are written on slips of paper. Team selects 
a slip of paper and must then create the mood of this Where. 
Players agree on Who and What or may just enter stage letting 
Who and What evolve out of the effects. 

Scene begins, with back-stage providing sound and lighting 
effects to create the mood and the on-stage players adding to the 
mood 

204 



Speech, Broadcasting and Technical Effects 

Once mood has been achieved, scene may be stopped or 
played through, as the director wishes. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to create the mood of the Where 

through technical effects and response of on-stage players. 

EVALUATION 

Did the lighting and sound effects coincide to set the mood? 
Did the players add to the mood or distract from it? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. This exercise quickly shows which players are able to let the 
effects carry them without manipulating them. 

2. Similar to ABSTRACT WHERE (p. 142) and can be used in con- 
junction with it. As with EXCURSIONS INTO THE INTUITIVE, a 
stage can be set up with lighting and props and story content 
added later. 



VOCAL SOUND EFFECTS 

Two or more players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Players are hidden from 
audience's view. They use microphone. 

Where is to be established through sound effects alone. The 
sound effects are not to be mechanically reproduced but are to 
done vocally by the players i.e., birds, wind, sirens, bells, etc., 
are all to be produced by vocalization alone. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to produce sounds vocally that are usu- 
ally given by recordings. 

EVALUATION 

Were the vocal sounds as effective as recorded sounds? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Players should work with sounds as they would with other 
players. 

2. Almost invariably, one or more students will delight in this 
exercise and will develop skills in sound effects to such an ex- 
tent that mechanical aids will be almost unnecessary. 

3. For homework, ask the students to listen to the sounds around 
them and to try to reproduce them. 

205 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



4. Some examples of scenes where sound is inherent are railroad 
stations, jungles, and harbors. Use of easily available materials 
to create sound effects can also be suggested. Straws can 
bubble water, cellophane crackles, pencils can be hit against 
empty glasses, etc. 



206 



IX. Developing Material for Situations 

The exercises in this chapter can broaden the student-actor's 
insight for finding fresh scene material. After a few experiments 
with WORD GAME (below), for instance, ideas should literally pour 
out as the student transcends his everyday orbit. Those involved 
in a community theater, interested in developing material around 
a certain event, should find WORD GAME B particularly useful, 1 

To be effective, these exercises should be supplemented with 
set pieces, lighting, music, sound, and costume. In short, the full 
technical theater should be utilized. 

Although the following exercises are especially helpful in the 
handling of situational material usable for performance many 
exercises in this handbook can do this. If the Point of Concentra- 
tion is understood by the student-actors and focus is kept on the 
problem (object) the Point of Concentration presents, in a sense, 
anyone and everyone can develop scenes. 



WORD GAME A 2 

Two or more teams. 

Each team selects a word and divides it into syllables. Floor- 
plans are drawn, and a Where, Who, and What are agreed upon 



1 See Developing Scenes for Improvisational Theater, Chapter XVI. 
2 woRD GAME should be brought into workshops after the twelfth or 
thirteenth Where session. 

207 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

for each syllable. Each team casts for the situations and selects 
back-stage workers. 

The team then acts out the syllables of the word. At no time 
is the word itself (or the syllable being acted out) to be men- 
tioned verbally. Every effort should be made to hide the syllable 
(and subsequent word) within the involved stage action, 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to obscure the chosen word within the 
scenes. 

EXAMPLE: "Let's use the word "industrial/' which we can divide 
into in-dust-trial." What can we da with the syllable "in?" "We 
could be walking in a door." If there are four of five people on a 
team, would it he interesting if all of them simply walked through 
a door? What are some possibilities for a real scene wtih a Where, 
Who, and Whit? 

This might lead to the discussion of a situation in which a stu- 
dent had an "in" with a teacher or a salesman with a reception- 
ist. Reminding students to disregard the spelling of the syllable 
and think only of the sound sense might prompt someone to sug- 
gest a scene at an "inn." Any one of these suggestions could fa- 
cilitate a complete scene. 

Help the teams to realize the scene implications of each syllable. 
The "inn" might be in the country at night, with a cast of char- 
acters ranging from the wayfaring stranger to the sleepy bellboy. 
There might be a reconciliation between the stranger and a long- 
lost brother, or perhaps a robbery when the thieves see the mon- 
eybelt around the stranger's waist. Action that will help disguise 
the syllable and make it more difficult for the audience to guess 
the word should be encouraged. 

What can we do with "dust"? "We could come from a mining 
camp and be dusting off our clothes." Could that be developed 
into a full scene with Who, Where, and What? What else does 
"dust" imply? What do we associate with dust? 

They might think of gold dust and of a potential gold miners' 
situation; the dust-bowl period of U. S. history; a clue in a mys- 
tery story. The variations are unlimited. 

"Trial" is obvious, but student-actors should be reminded to think 
208 



Developing Material for Situations 

of a situation so that attention is taken away from the word 
itself. 

EVALUATION 

Before the class evaluation of the theater aspects of the scene, 
allow the student-audience to guess the word enacted. It is advis- 
able that the teacher-director know the word in advance, so as to 
provide hints to shorten the guessing period. 

Did they solve the problem? Were the syllables they acted 
out hidden? Did they put in a major distraction to obscure the 
word? (For example, a team that acted out the full word "parcel" 
had a delivery boy bring in a mechanical servant, acted out by 
one of the players; the scene developed around the mechanical 
servant, and the word itself was obscured. ) 

Did selection of the costume piece bring the character into 
sharp focus? Could more have been done with lights and sound? 



WORD GAME B 

Two or more teams. 

This exercise usually produces much satirical material. The 
team selects a word, as in WORD GAME A. Instead of giving them 
free rein in creating their scenes, the teacher-director provides 
specific themes on which the scenes must be based. The themes 
might be as follows: 

1. religious 8. blackout 

2. political 9. automation 

3. sociological 10. transformations 

4. scientific 11. educational 

5. historical 12. specific community or 

6. fantasy school problems 

7. current events 13. clownishness 

It is not at all necessary to limit the teams to one theme per 
syllable. Indeed, teams wishing to work on more than one theme 
per syllable often excite great selectivity trying to find material 
for five or six different situations. 

Where, Who, and What is then set up, technical crew stands 
by, costume pieces are selected, and the games begin! 

209 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

EXAMPLE: Suppose the team chooses the word "monkey." For 
their purposes, it is broken into two syllables: monk-key. The 
players must create a scene around the first syllable, monk, using 
one of the above-mentioned themes. For instance, a religious 
scene using monk is obvious; or perhaps a sociological scene, 
portraying a monk in relation to the lay citizen; or a historical 
scene, showing a monk at the time of the Spanish Inquisition. The 
possibilities are endless. 

The second syllable, key, is handled in the same way. Politi- 
cal: the mayor hands over the key to the city to a visiting digni- 
tary; scientific: a research chemist finds the key to preventing a 
dread disease; fantasy: a magic key takes the bearer to Shangri- 
La; transformation: anyone keeping the key becomes trans- 
formed. 

And for the whole word, "monkey/* infinite possibilities exist. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Make it clear to the teams that the sound sense of the word 
can be used instead of the actual spelling. (E.g., "mistake" 
becomes miss-take or mist-ache; or, using greater poetic li- 
cense, "petrified" might become pet-try-fried.) Since all are 
after flights of fancy, as much freedom with words as pos- 
sible should be allowed, so long as the words are not com- 
pletely distorted. 

2. Have the student-audience suggest other situations around 
the syllables and words enacted. Prompt them into suggest- 
ing ideas of transcending possibilities. Let the student-actor 
learn that he call make his theater reality whatever he so de- 
sires on the stage; if the group agrees, a scene can take place 
at the gates of heaven or in the bowels of the earth. Bring 
in unusual set pieces and costume pieces for them to choose 
from. 

3. Two-syllable words are better than three-syllable words in 
a class situation because of the time limit. WORD GAME takes 
more time for preparation by the students than other acting 
problems, assignments of words, and themes may be given 
to the groups earlier so that they may work out the Where, 
Who, and What before coming to class. Care should be 
taken, however, that they do not plan out the How. 

210 



Developing Material for Situation 

4. This exercise has been developed into a most successful 
evening of entertainment for an audience. It is particularly 
valuable in a summer camp situation, where the time ele- 
ment prohibits workshops and more formal presentations and 
where the arts and crafts classes can help in making props, 
set pieces, etc. 

5. It has been found that WORD GAME has little value for chil- 
dren under nine years of age. The meaning of words before 
this time is generally too literal and connotative for them to 
use words in an abstract sense. 

6. Like the run-through of a formal show, when two or three 
scenes are done at one time as they are here, the weaknesses 
and strength of the players are highlighted. This highlighting 
gives the teacher-director an excellent indication of where 
individuals need help and what kind of problems they 
should be given. If possible, it is most valuable to set aside 
extra time for WORD GAME in addition to regular workshop. 
If the student-actors show lack of involvement with objects, 
if they do not make contact and develop Where, Who, and 
What, if their stage pictures are cluttered and meaningless, 
it is time to retrace our steps and return to earlier exercises. 
And by now, the teacher will also know what exercises to 
give them. 

7. The similarities between this and the old game of charades 
are evident, although here they have been adapted to meet 
our needs. The teacher-director should concentrate on 
heightening the students' selectivity and expanding their 
experiencenot on producing charades experts. 

8. It is probably clear at this point that the teacher or students 
have merely to peruse the dictionary now and again to find 
enough material to keep classes going for years. When stu- 
dents first play the game, the teacher should bring a list of 
words to class in case the students are at a loss. Let them 
bring die syllables to life. The simpler composite words are 
easier to use and make the WORD GAME more quickly under- 
standable to students. 

9. The student-actors should have worked on some technical 
problems before doing this exercise. 

10. After WORD GAME has been played four or five times in work- 

211 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

shop sessions, an awareness of the vastness and variety of 
choice of material possible for use in solving problems opens 
up for the student-actor. 

11. If the situations develop into story and playwriting, suggest 
the team add an acting problem (of their own choice) to the 
syllable they are acting out. 



ONCE UPON A TIME 

Here the exercise outlined on p. 307 should be used. 



USING OBJECTS TO EVOLVE SCENES A 

One player. 

This exercise should help the student-actor to increase his 
awareness of the simplest of objects, a starting point for develop- 
ing scenes. It constitutes an early step in excursions into the 
intuitive. 

The player is seated on stage. Teacher-director whispers to 
him the name of an object. He is then to sit quietly until his 
concentration on the object sets him into motion. 

Teacher-director may choose among such categories as : vege- 
tation (growth), desk, fireplace, window, doors, light, a place to 
sit, box (container), weapon. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on the object, which then sets player in 
motion. 

EVALUATION 

To actor: did you sit quietly until something happened, or did 
you plan the use of the object before you went into motion? 

To audience: was the object used in a pedestrian way? (Put- 
ting a log on the fire, or Satan rising from the fire? ) 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. The player is to keep his eyes open while quietly viewing the 
stage and concentrating on his object. Closed eyes will with- 
draw him from his immediate environment; and this is to be 
avoided. 

212 



Developing Material for Situations 

2. Coach the actors not to feel urgent or hurried about allowing 
their object to put them into motion. Suggest they concentrate 
on exhalation. 

3. Watch the growth for heightening an object in student-actors. 
Was vegetation just someone watering a garden, or did it be- 
come a man-eating vine? 

4. If concentration is complete on getting the object to move 
them, and not on an activity relating to the object, students 
may do some charming fantasy or intensely dramatic scenes. 

5. If actors remain tied down by uninteresting activity, stop the 
exercise and quickly go through the following exercises. When 
this has been done, then return to the single player's object- 
motion exercise. 



USING OBJECTS TO EVOLVE SCENES B 

Two players (advanced students only). 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Players are to keep the 
object constantly in focus through handling it, etc., while playing 
the agreed-upon structure. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: total focus on, and exploration of, the 

agreed object. 
SIDE COACHING: Stay with the object! Describe the object! See it 

in detail! Set it in motion! 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Be certain that players stay within the immediacy of the stage 
environment and the object and do not pull away from the 
problem by giving history, information, or any free associ- 
ations. 

2. Preoccupation with the object creates either a change of rela- 
tionship, of character, or of the object itself. It is difficult to 
say exactly why this works as it does, but as in the CONTRA- 
PUNTAL ARGUMENT and all the preoccupation exercises, an in- 
tuitive jump between players seems to take place through this 
total involvement with the single object. The object melts 
away, so to speak, and a transformation takes place, some- 
times developing delightful fantasies, sometimes dramatic re- 
lationship changes. To achieve this, however, it is important 

213 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

to penetrate the object in every way possible. The solving 
of this exercise requires intense absorption with the immedi- 
ate object in the immediate present together with another 
player. 

3. If this exercise is done with students who are not too ad- 
vanced it is, at best, a help in directing focus; only some 
activity will be generated around the object. This problem can 
be truly solved (and a transformation take place) only by the 
most advanced students. It shows quite clearly the potency 
of a Point of Concentration when it is understood and prop- 
erly handled. 



HERO EXERCISE 

Two or more players. 

Group decision on object. Where, Who, and What agreed 

upon. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on making the object the hero of the 
scene. The situation is around and about the object, and 
the scenes evolve from that. Many fairy tales use this form. 



TRANSFORMING THE OBJECT 3 

Full group of players. (Similar to STORY-BUILDING, p. 179, and 

ADD AN OBJECT WHERE, p. 87 ) . 

First player creates an object and passes it to second player; 
second player takes it, handles it, and from it makes another 
object and passes it to third player; third player uses object sec- 
ond player gives him and alters its shape; and so on until it has 
gone through all the players. 4 

A variant of the above is to play the game with two players. 
To help very young actors understand this problem, bring clay 
and have each student mold one object out of another. During 



3 See SPACE SUBSTANCE, p. 81. 

4 Second City players used a version of the above most successfully dur- 
ing SUGGESTIONS BY THE AUDIENCE. The audience gave two objects. The 
players started with the first one and transformed it into many shapes until 
it became the second object mentioned. 

214 



Developing Material for Situations 

TRANSFORMING THE OBJECT players "play the object" between 
them. In this way a miniature scene develops with each object 
before it is transformed. 



TELEVISION SCREEN 

Teams of two or more players. 

Set up a large shadow screen, 6' x 4' (can be made of stretched 
canvas); two spotlights; a well-supplied costume rack and prop 
table. 

One team will be the actors; one team will be the family. 

Actors go behind the screen. Family is seated in "living room/' 
facing screen, where they have gathered for an evening of TV. 

Each member of the family calls out his favorite show, goes 
to the TV screen, and "turns on the set." When he does so, the 
living room lights are dimmed, the lights behind the "TV set" are 
brought up, and die actors must play the show called for. 

The family may "change the channel" or call far a new show 
at any time. The actors never know when they are going to be 
"shut off." 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: agility in changing character, costumes, 

and content. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. A variation of this exercise can be used by cutting a large 
opening in a cardboard box or building an actual oversized 
TV frame for the actors to play behind. In this variation, a 
great variety of props and costumes may be used. 5 

2. Back-stage set-up should be extremely well-organized, so that 
the TV actors can obtain their costumes and props. 

3. After a time, switch the teams around so that students have 
an opportunity to play both actors and family. 

4. The scenes, for the most part, will center on take-offs on cur- 
rent TV shows. 

5. If the teacher is working with adults, he may wish to exclude 



5 A variation of this exercise, using live actors for TV, was included in 
the Playmakers performance of ONCE UPON A TIME at the Children's Theater 
at Second City, Chicago. 

215 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



the "family 5 ' part of the exercise and just have one or two 
people on stage with the actors to call for shows, change 
channels, etc. 



LEAVING SOMETHING ON STAGE 

Two or more players ( advanced students ) . 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. A scene is played in 
which an object, a sound, a light, or a thought are left on stage 
at the final curtain. There are no actors on stage when the scene 
ends, just the thing left there, 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: whatever is to be left on stage. 
EXAMPLE A (done by adults): POC was the plague. Where a 
room in a home. Who a man and his servant. What avoiding 
contact with the populace. 

The scene developed showing that the characters, fearful of dying 
because of a plague, never left their home. When they exited 
from the stage to retire for the night, a curtain fluttering on an 
open window in the empty room was the "something" left on 
stage the concept of the plague. 

EXAMPLE B (done by adults): POC was an execution. Where 
office of the prison warden. Who girl, social worker, warden, 
minister, prisoner. What a marriage. 

The scene took place in the warden's office of a prison. A girl 
was permitted to marry a prisoner before his execution in order 
to legitimize their child. After all had exited from the room, the 
empty stage had a momentary blackout the moment of electro- 
cution. 

EXAMPLE c (done by teen-agers): POC was a searchlight. Where- 
inside the barbed wire fence of a concentration camp. Who two 
prisoners. What escaping. 

Two characters were escaping from the camp, crawling and 
creeping along the ground trying to get through the barbed wire. 
A large searchlight kept sweeping the full theater and stage as 
the escapees flattened to the ground (this was a 1000- watt revolv- 
ing spot in the rear of the studio-theater). When it appeared that 

216 



Developing Material for Situations 

the prisoners had finally escaped, a cry of "Halt!" a rattle of ma- 
chine guns, and a scream were heard. The searchlight was left, 
revolving around the empty stage and through the theater. 
EXAMPLE D (done by children): POC was the sound of a baby 
crying. Where bombed-out building. Who women., children, old 
people. What trying to escape falling bombs. 

As this scene developed, the group of people had to leave the 
shelter because the bombs were coming close in. When all had 
left, and the bombing quieted down, a baby's cry was heard. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. This exercise is extremely valuable for developing an un- 
derstanding of building a scene and heightening theaterical 
response. 

2. An equipped stage is necessary for this exercise, since lighting 
and sound usually play a great part in the scene's develop- 
ment. A studio theater with simple equipment and props 
makes it possible to set up these scenes within a short time; 
and as many as three or four such scenes have been done 
within one workshop period. 

3. This exercise should not be given until the group have be- 
come technically adept and ingenious in setting up Where, 
Who, and What, with real props quickly and effectively. 

4. The fluttering curtain in the Example A was achieved by 
using an. electric fan and focusing it on a window frame with 
hanging curtains. 



SCENE-ON-SCENE 

Teams of four or more advanced students (closely related to 

STORY-TELLING, p. 312). 

Each team divides into two sub-teams. Sub-team A sets up a 
scene in the present and, in the course of the scene, through con- 
versation, brings to mind another scene (e.g., flashback, a mo- 
ment in history, speculation on the future, etc.). Sub-team B 
must then act out the suggested scene. 

There may be any number of these interjected scenes, as B 
completes the scene and throws it back to A and the present. A 
then suggests another situation, B plays it out, and so on. A may 

217 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

break in with the present and take the scene away from B at 

any time. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: attentiveness as to when to come into 

focus* 

EXAMPLE: Two old ladies (sub-team A) are chatting over their 
teacups. One reminisces over her girlhood and that wonderful 
night when she and George took their first sleighride together. 
Sub-team A now fades out, and Sub-team B comes into focus and 
plays out the scene. When they've completed the scene, they 
fade out, and sub-team A-the two old ladies-take it back into 
the present. And so on. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Lights, sound, music, and props should all be used for this 
exercise. 

2. This is a complex problem, for the sub-teams are working 
from their own point of view. This constant attentiveness as 
to when to enter the scene requires the most intense involve- 
ment with everything that is happening on stage. 

3. Both sub-teams should have a chance to control the scenes. 

4. This exercise should only be given to advanced students. 

THEME-SCENE 

Two or more teams. 

This exercise is recommended for students who have worked 
several months on the advanced acting problems. It involves a 
more complex use of experiential data and is valuable as a step 
toward suggestions from the audience. Like WORD GAME, it should 
utilize full technical resources. 

In this exercise, a "theme" is some activating phrase, such 
as "Big fish eat little fish" or "Stinginess leads to remorse." A 
"scene" can be any place at all: rooftops, cave, cloud, on top of 
the Eiffel Tower, etc. 

Half the group writes theme ideas on individual slips of paper, 
while the other half writes scene ideas on individual slips of 
paper. The themes are scrambled together in one hat, and the 
scenes are scrambled together in another. Each team blindly 
chooses a theme and a scene and then works out a theme-scene 

218 



Developing Material for Situations 

using Where, Who, and What. They proceed to play the theme- 
scene. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: constant repetition of theme. 

EXAMPLE A Love Is Where You Find It Mountain Cabin 

A married couple has gone to the mountains for the purpose of 
patching up their marriage. An escaped convict and his pal 
break into the cabin and hold the couple prisoners. The wife 
shows the gangsters how to get away, then returns to her hus- 
band. It was afterward suggested that the wife might (since the 
marriage is a failure) leave with the men, thus carrying out the 
theme more accurately. 

EXAMPLE B The World Owes Me a Living Rooftop 

Two sweethearts on a New York tenement roof during a hot sum- 
mer night. They are tense over the problem of her pregnancy, 
for he is not willing to take the responsibility of marriage and 
parenthood. He feels himself to be an artist, and nothing will 
make him take a drudging nine-to-five job. He is "special" and 
feels indeed that "the world owes me a living/' The girl commits 
suicide by jumping off the roof. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. This exercise can be extended and varied indefinitely. Any 
combination of theme and scene will work. The variations in 
characterization when one theme is used in several different 
scenes is amazing. 

2. THEME-SCENE tends to become a structure for a story line and 
therefore to lapse into group playwriting. What we seek is 
total preoccupation of the players with the theme so that it 
moves them (as object) instead of them manipulating it. 



SUPPLICATION 

Teams of three or more advanced students. 

Players are divided into three parts of a triangle: (1) Suppli- 
cant (who pleads for something); (2) Accuser (who malces 
a charge); (3) Judiciary (who makes the choice and determines 
whether supplicant is successful) . 

Either individuals or teams can play each corner of the 

219 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



triangle. For instance, in a trial scene there would be a Defend- 
ant, a Prosecutor, and a Judge (the audience would be the Jury, 
an extension of the Judge ) . 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: each part of the triangle has a different 
POC (pleading, accusing, determining success of supplication). 

EXAMPLES: a Salem witch trial; an ordinary misdemeanor trial; 
a murder trial; an Indian pow-wow arguing some important point; 
deliberations with prisoners during a prison break. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

The Supplicant should be encouraged to work with the stu- 
dent audience (playing the jury, a mob, etc.). 



ORCHESTRATION 

Four or more players. 

Each player decides what musical instruments he will be. 
Players agree on Where, Who, and What in which they can be 
their instruments. Players are not to become their instruments 
literally, as in fantasy, but are to "play" as if they have taken 
on the qualities of their instruments. This may be done through 
voice quality, body movement, etc. 

At various times throughout the scene, the teacher-director 
should coach: "Orchestrate!" All the players must then "play" 
together. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to take on the qualities of a musical in- 
strument and to play as part of the "orchestra." 

EXAMPLE: a cocktail party, where different "instruments" can 
play in harmony with one another. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

As an interesting variation, ask group to select a "conductor." In 
the preceding example, for instance, it could be the host. He 
must then, through the scene's progression get his "instruments" 
(guests) to play together, as duets, solos, or full orchestra. This 
gives the actor playing the host a director's view while working 
inside the scene. This is a most advanced use of a similar tech- 
nique used with young children in activizing them within a scene, 

220 



Developing Material for Situations 

RANDOM WALK 

Any number of players. Requires a pianist capable of improvising. 

Actors walk at random around stage, exiting and entering. The 
mood, rhythm, etc., are usually set by the playing of music. At in- 
tervals during the walk, activities of one sort or another are 
called out to players who move from the walk into the activity. 
This is a most exhilarating exercise, it creates a tremendous free- 
dom, gaiety, and unusual spontaneity in the activities. The end of 
the walk comes in a slowing down of the music and walk to a 
standstill. 

RANDOM WALK has great value in connection with exercises in 
seeing. While players are walking to the piano rhythm, simply 
call out various things for them to look at a tennis match, a bull 
fight, etc. This is to be done without interrupting the rhythm 
generated by the walk. 



HIDDEN PROBLEM 

Teams of two or more advanced players. 

They set up Where, Who, and What as usual. They decide on 
a category or emotion but are never to bring it out in the open. 
Categories could be: teaching, fantasy, love, hate. 

EXAMPLE A (teaching): Where kitchen. Who mother-in-law and 
daughter-in-law. What a visit by the former to the latter. Hidden 
problem to teach. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: keeping the problem hidden. 
SIDE COACHING: Keep activity going between you! 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. In the foregoing example the mother-in-law hid her teaching 
by helping, insinuations, suggestions, etc. It developed into 
an intensely interesting scene in which "to teach" never came 
up. See Conflict, p. 248. 

2. The Where, Who, and What are to be unrelated to the hidden 
problem. Teaching, for instance, is not to be placed in a 
schoolroom. 

3. Variant: players act to alter opposite players* attitude. 

221 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

EXAMPLE B: (fantasy): The following example was a scene im- 
provisation which was used in Second City performances and 
was titled "The Orange Tree/' Where living-room, dining-room 
combination. Who husband and wife. What wife's birthday 
(husband brings her a miniature orange tree). Hidden problem- 
fantasy. 

This scene developed into a charming, whimsical piece on the 
growth of this little tree in this simple home to an orange grove 
within the apartment building, and the couple retiring on the 
proceeds from orange-juice. 

EXAMPLE c (love): Two players. Where, Who, and What agree 
upon. A strong emotion is felt between these people but never 
expressed because for some reason it is impossible or inap- 
propriate or unknown. The POC is to keep up a mutual activity 
without ever mentioning the emotion. See NO MOTION, p. 189. 
Where old people's home. Who man and woman in their eight- 
ies. What gardening. 

An interesting shift of the above could be to make a wide age 
difference between them. Young doctor and old woman or very 
old man and young nurse any situation where the difference of 
age, race, class, etc. make consummation or declaration of love 
impossible. Again it could be love as in friendship, for example: 
Where fishing wharf. Who Civil War veteran and young boy. 
What-fishing. 

EXAMPLE D (hate): Where bedroom. Who husband and wife. 
What preparing for their fiftieth anniversary celebration. 



SUGGESTIONS BY THE AUDIENCE 

Taking suggestions by the audience can be a delightful part 
of an improvisational theater program and quickly makes the 
audience part of the game. 

Organization for taking SUGGESTIONS BY THE AUDIENCE has 
many variations. Some improvisational theaters base their whole 
structure on this technique. This can be dangerous, however, for 
it may easily become a gimmick that can kill the art form. The 
following are a few ideas for structuring this form: 

222 



Developing Material for Situations 

1. On-the-spot scenes developed without preparation off 
stage. 

2. Use of individual members of the audience as actors. 6 

3. Off-stage preparation. 

4. Use of one outside person who can take the position of a 
narrator or story-teller or just an extra player when the scene 
needs or requires him. See SENDING SOMEONE ON STAGE, p. 144. 

Players should structure for an action or problem and not a 
story or joke, otherwise many of the audience's suggestions fizzle 
as players struggle to be "funny." Sometimes the players will 
let the audience in on the problem, sometimes it is just used by 
the players as their POC while working out the suggestions. 
What category the audience suggests is up to the players. Where, 
Who, What, Objects, Events, Emotions, and Styles of Playing 
may be varied and combined. If Where is suggested, for instance, 
it can become OBSTACLE WHEKE or HELP EACH OTHER WHERE. If it 
is objects, TRANSFORMATION OF OBJECTS, or LETTING OBJECTS MOVE 
YOU, or GIVING LIFE TO OBJECTS can become the acting problem 
used to put the audience suggestion into motion, The object sug- 
gestions can be used within Where, Who, What or handled sim- 
ply as objects with either single or more players. Many combina- 
tions are possible. 

Whether the audience knows or not, an acting problem is 
valuable to use when players structure scenes. If the audience is 
asked for a problem, then players supply the Where, Who, and 
What; if the audience is asked for Where, Who, and What, then 
players must supply the problem. Whether doing an on-the-spot 
improvisation or preparing one off stage (during intermission or 
while other plays are performing), ability to solve problems and 
quickly picking an exercise that will free all for playing will de- 
termine the quality of scenes. For even, as in workshops, if the 
scenes do not always quite come off as "story/" the very act of 
playing is exciting to watch. 

Agility and speed in getting a character, setting up Where* 
and selecting and acting problem are necessary to the success of 
this stage activity, and all such exercises in the book should be 



6 This was done with great success at Second City's Childrens* Theater 
Playmakers. See ONCE UPON A TIME, p. 307, for techniques. 

223 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

used continuously in the workshops. WHERE WITH THREE OBJECTS 
and all the exercises of character agility are especially useful. 
Many of the exercises in the book can be used exactly as they 
are done in workshops, with exhilarating results. 

The following is an agility exercise in quickly thinking up 
problems that might generate stage action. Paper and pencil. 
Student actors write down as many answers to the following they 
can within an agreed time limit. The teacher director may add 
any other categories he wishes, 

1. Getting rid of something. 

2. Getting rid of someone. 

3. Getting out of something. 

4. Wanting the same thing someone else has. 

5. A moment of indecision. 

Audiences suggestion flayers structure 

Where: Underwater Where: Use the THREE OBJECT 

WHERE exercise 

Who: Divers Who: Select a character by 

quickly selecting a rhythm 
image as played in CHARAC- 
TER AGILITY game. 

What: Seeking treasure What: This is the What acting 

problem to use (i.e., "jump 
emotion/ 7 "unknown prob- 
lem/' "teaching/' etc. 

In this way the actors place their own organization within the 
structure given by the audience and go ahead solving the audi- 
ence suggestion exactly as they would any workshop problem. 
When theater games become "flesh on bones/' no acting problems 
as such are necessary, for stage actions will be spontaneously 
selected during the playing. 



224 



X. Roundirtg-Out Exercises 

Speech 



SINGING DIALOGUE 1 

Two or more players. Where, Who, and What agreed upon. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: players are to sing the dialogue instead 
of speaking it. 

EVALUATION 

Did they explore all the areas into which sound might go? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Good singing voices are not necessary for this exercise. Just 
as we had extended movement of the body, this is an exer- 
cise in the extension of sound. 

2. If a pianist is available, have him follow the group and im- 
provise melodies as they go along. 



TELEPHONE 

Single player. 

Phone rings. Player answers. Conversation should be guarded 
(from the audience) and should be hidden. Player must not tell 



1 See also madrigal and cantata for improvised singing, p. 180. 

225 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

audience who is at other end of line. Player can call out if he 
wishes. 

EXAMPLE: A girl might be calling a boy, but she is afraid to 
come right out and ask him for a date. 

EVALUATION 

Who was on the other end of the line? What did the answerer 
think of the other person? Did he tell us? Did he use his body? 



GIBBERISH #8 GIVING A LECTURE 

Single player. 

Player is to decide upon a lecture he will give. It will be a 
long lecture on any subject he may wish classical literature, So- 
cial Security, geology, etc. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on communicating. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. This is for advanced students only. The communication made 
on these serious and lengthy subjects is almost complete if 
the problem is solved. 

2. The POC must be held to very strongly. On the communica- 
tion, If this is done, with no more overt action than any 
speaker might make during a lecture, players will communi- 
cate a lecture. 



GIBBERISH #9: FOREIGN-LANGUAGE RHYTHMS 

This exercise requires knowledge of language rhythms. Up 
until now, we have tried to keep gibberish free from any particu- 
lar language rhythms. Now, have students deliberately work for 
such rhythms: gibberish that sounds like Swedish, Russian, 
Japanese, etc. 

The exercise can be integrated with GIBBERISH #6, but care 
should be taken to keep away from these rhythms in GIBBERISH 
exercises #1 through #5. 

226 



Kounding-Out Exercises 
Physscalization 

DEAF AUDIENCE 2 

Two or more players. 

Who, Where, and What agreed upon. Members of the audi- 
ence are to plug up their ears while watching the scene. Players 
are to go through scene as they normally would using both 
dialogue and action. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION; communicate a scene to a deaf audi- 
ence. 

EVALUATION 

Did the scene have animation? Did you know what was going 
on, even though you could not hear them? Where could they have 
physicalized the scene? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. This brings to the student-actors (by being audience) a real- 
ization of the necessity for showing, not telling. 

2. The lif elessness of a scene when actors talk instead of playing 
becomes evident to the most resistant. 

3. This is a particularly good exercise to use to freshen up im- 
provisational actors who are performing and rely on jokes 
and ad-libbing to carry their scenes. 

4. Variant: have audience close eyes instead of plugging ears. 

DUBBING 

Four players. 

DUBBING is effective in creating close relationship with fellow 
actors. A live microphone adds greatly to the impact of the exer- 
cise but is not vital to its success. 

Sub-divide the group into two sub-teams. Sub-teams decide 
together on Where, Who, and What. 

Sub-team A goes up onto stage. Sub-team B takes up position 
where they can see the stage and can be seen by sub-team A. If 
possible, sub-team B should have mike. 

^This is closely related to, and can be used in conjunction with, GIB- 
BERISH exercises. 

227 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Sub-team B is to perform as if they were providing the English 
soundtrack for a foreign film as if they were dubbing in the 
dialogue in English. Sub-team A is to perform as though they 
were the actors in the foreign film, providing all the visual action. 
They are to use action alone and are not to speak at any time, but 
they may silently mouth dialogue to one another. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to keep the dialogue and action as in- 
terrelated as possible. 

EXAMPLE: The scene is usually initiated by the actors, with the 
dubbers picking it up after action has already begun. A couple 
might come on stage as if entering their house, take a few silent 
moments to put away hats, coats, etc. perhaps the dubbers 
might provide humming or whistling or something of the sort 
and then suddenly launch into an argument, hashing something 
over which they held back for the privacy of their own home. 
At this point, the dubbers would come in, providing the voices 
and dialogue to match the action. At first, the actors and the 
dubbers may work separatelythe actors altering their stage 
action each time the dubbers speak, and the dubbers altering 
their speech each time an action is made. But after a time, the 
two teams will work together; and the resulting combination of 
action and dialogue will create a highly integrated and lively 
scene. In a variation of this exercise, the director switches the 
initiative for dialogue back and forth by side coaching: "Actors!" 
"Dubbers!" etc. Still another variation is to have sub-team B fol- 
low sub-team A around (shadow) the stage. The actors initiate 
dialogue, but the dubbers speak as nearly as possible simul- 
taneously. 3 

EVALUATION 

To actors: Did you find that you altered your stage action as 
a result of the dialogue? 

To dubbers: Did you follow the action as it came from the 
stage, or did you interject other action through your dialogue? 



3 This is similar to the Greek theater technique where the prompter keeps 
the dialogue running along with the actors. In this case, however, the 
dialogue by the original actor is ad-lib, which makes the dubbers' role most 
challenging. Like mirroring and shadowing, dubbing exercises develop 
strong contact with the environment. 

228 



Ronnding-Out Exercises 
To audience: were the dialogue and the action integrated? 



POINTS OF OBSERVATION 



1. This exercise should be used only with advanced students. 
Has performance value. 

2. Teacher-director, or group leader, or group can add variations. 



METRONOME EXERCISE 

Two players. 

Where, Who, and What are agreed upon. Players repeat 
scene four times. Their pacing and timing in each scene are de- 
termined by the speed of a metronome. The first three scenes are 
done with the metronome, and thus the metronome might be set 
at normal speed for the first, fast for the second, and slow for 
the third. (If no metronome is available, have someone beat on 
a drum or something similar.) The fourth scene is the actors' 
choice they may choose any of the previous speeds they wish- 
but they are to do the scene without the metronome, recalling the 
beat from the first time they did the scene. The Point of Concen- 
tration is in picking up the beat of the metronome. 

EVALUATION 

To actors: Did the metronome give you a greater awareness of 
stage relationships? Did the beat of the metronome affect you 
physically and individually? 

To audience: Did the different timings alter the content and 
moods, even though the scene was basically the same? What dif- 
ferent character qualities came up with each of the different 
beats? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. In the fourth presentation, the actors* choice, instruct the 
actors to choose other than the normal speed. 

2. Let the actors play around with different speeds; don't limit 
them to the extremes of fast, normal, and slow. Experiment 
with more subtle beats. 

3. For variation, try changing the beats within the scene. 

As with all the exercises, it is up to the teacher-director to de- 

229 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



termine at what point his students will gain the most from 

this problem. 

This exercise should bring a further experience in atten- 

tiveness to outside phenomena (rhythm) shaping the scene's 

progression. 



GIVE AND TAKE 

Two or more players ( two preferred ) . 

Where, Who, What, time, weather, etc., agreed upon. Scene 
is played. Side coaching is used throughout scene. As the teacher- 
director calls out to the players, they are to respond accordingly. 
SIDE COACHING: Gwe! Take! Give arid take! 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to be attentive to the side coaching 

and give the total focus to the other player, or take focus from 

him, or give and take where required. 

EVALUATION 

To actors: Did you feel a rise in energy when directed? Did 
the problem (material in the scene) between you become more 
intense? 

To audience: Were the human relations sharper? Did ten- 
sion in terms of the scene appear? Were character traits de- 
veloped? Did the scene maintain a complete improvisational de- 
velopment? (Scene-building must come through immediate in- 
volvement and not through outside plot or story.) 

To total group: did you experience true improvisation? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Some players keep abruptly changing character tone through- 
out this exercise and become most permissive on give and 
very aggressive on take. This is not necessary for solving the 
basic structure, since all we are after is giving the focus or 
intensity to each other (as in the following CAMERA EXERCISE) 
and taking the focus from each other. 4 Therefore it should be 
noted whether or not the expression of emotion shown grew 



4 xwo SCENES, p. 160, employs a similar change of focus. 
230 



Rcwnding-Out Exercises 

out of the problem or merely was stuck on the scene at the 
moment of give and take. However, any emotional changes 
that come about genuinely through the give and take should 
be discussed, since physical intensity will produce emotional 
changes in a character. In fact, this exercise often produces 
strong character traits as a result of intensity with focus on 
each other. 

If actors still appear isolated or are still using outside de- 
vices to move scenes if they show little stage energy then 
the teacher has given this problem too early. 



Seeing 



CAMERA 

This is a good lead-up step to "give and take" and can 
be given early in "where." 
Two players. 

Players agree on simple activity, such as eating, sitting on a 
park bench, etc. 

Throughout scene, teacher-director is to call out the name of 
one or the other player. When player's name is called, he is to 
put head-to-foot focus on the other player. The scene is not to 
stop, but is to continue throughout these "camera changes." 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION; to put full focus and energy on the 
other player, 

EVALUATION 

Did the players give their total bodily attention? Did they 
see their fellow actor with their feet? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

In explaining the problem, use the image of "becoming-a-eamera" 
or that they are one large eye (from head to foot) to help the 
players in concentrating and focusing their energies on one 
another. 

231 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

SEEING THE WORD 5 

Single player. 

Actor goes on stage and describes an experience he's had, 
such as taking a trip, watching a football game, or visiting some- 
one. Tell him he is to continue his talk but to shift his Point of 
Concentration according to the side coaching he will get. 

No matter what the teacher calls out, player is to continue 
narrating the scene. He is not to shift his narration to meet the 
Point of Concentration. 

SIDE COACHING; Concentrate on the color in the scene! Con- 
centrate on the sounds in the scene! Concentrate on the way you 
feel about the way the game is going! Concentrate on the student 
in the second seat! See yourself! 

If the talk is on playing ball, the side coaching might be: What 
color shirt is the pitcher wearing? Is the wind blowing? Is the 
sky grey or sunny? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. As greater perception is awakened in the student by side 
coaching, notice at what moment he begins to leave the 
word and relate to the scene he is talking about. His speaking 
voice will become natural, his body will relax and words will 
flow out of him. When a student is no longer depending on 
words but is concentrating on the environment he's describ- 
ing, then all artificiality and stilted speech disappear. This 
exercise should not be played often, for its uses recall and 
therefore must be carefully handled. 

2. For the formal theater, this exercise is very useful for the 
actor with long speeches. Breaking down the speech into a 
series of Where, Who, and What will give the lines the physi- 
cal objects necessary to make dialogue organic. (See VER- 
BALIZING THE WHERE, p. 128. 



5 This exercise is helpful in training the student-actors to use words with 
more dimension. It stimulates scenes in full sense perceptions and is also a 
great asset in correcting artificial reading habits for the formal theater. See 
the remarks on dialogue and words in Chapter II. 



232 



Rounding-Out Exercises 

Developing Scenes From Audience Suggestions 

ON THE SPOT A 

Teams of four or more. 

This exercise trains the actors in developing immediate re- 
sponse to audience suggestions. It is one of the preliminary steps 
toward actual improvisation of audience suggestions at public 
performances. 

Student-actors write out on individual slips of paper a Where, 
Who, Time, Weather, etc. Papers are then put into individual 
piles according to categories, and each team picks a slip from 
each pile. 

Each team develops a scene by combining the information 
set down on these slips of paper. 

EVALUATION 

Was the scene set up quietly? Could the scene have been or- 
ganized faster? 

Ask the actors: What could have been done to expedite the 
organization? Ask the audience the same question. 

POINT OF OBSEBVATION 

The method of writing on slips of paper and having students 
pick at random can be used with many other exercises. Players 
enjoy this way of selecting problems. See SUGGESTIONS BY THE 
AUDIENCE, p. 222. 

ON THE SPOT B 

Teams of four or more. 

This exercise will aid the student-actors in developing higher 
organizational skill and more speed in preparing their scenes. 
Audience vocally gives a Where, Who, What, Weather, Time, 
etc. to the team on stage. The team prepares the scene in front 
of the audience. 

EVALUATION 

Could they have cast more effectively? Did they work as a 
cooperating unit in planning? Did they give and take effectively 
(build upon each other's material) ? 

233 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Did team improvise a scene or write a script? Organization of 
the material, preparing the set, and time used in preparing scenes 
should be discussed. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. The teacher-director should watch for sloppiness on the part 
of the players. Scenes must be set up quickly and quietly. Do 
not allow cleverness and gags to replace discipline and 
integrity. 

2. Mirror exercises continue to be exciting to the students and 
a valuable tool in getting student-actors to work very closely 
with one another. They are also quite charming for perform- 
ances. 



MIRROR EXERCISE #4 
Four or more players. 

They are to use a three-way mirror. 
EXAMPLE: man trying on clothes. 



MIRROR EXERCISE #5 
Five or more players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Three players are mir- 
rors, and two play scene, or one is player and four are mirrors, or 
whatever combination is desired. 



MIRROR EXERCISE #6 
Many players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon, using whatever combi- 
nation they wish. The "mirrors" distort as in an amusement park. 



MIRROR EXERCISE #7 
Many players. 

Players play mirror or looking into mirror without specifying 
when the change back and forth will happen. 

234 



Rounding-Out Exercises 

MIRROR EXERCISE #8 
Teams of any number. 

Ask players to do a problem around reflection of any kind. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

Exercise #8 will produce a number of new problems which can 
be made into further exercises. 



AUDIENCE DIRECTS 

Full group (after students are familiar with acting problems). 

Teams set up in usual way. During playing, the teacher calls 
out various problems for them to solve. What is called out will 
depend upon what is wanted from the scene. 

EXAMPLE: Where kitchen. Who mother and son. What din- 
ner time. Problem boy wants to leave home. 

When playing starts, "Contact!" may be called out, and play- 
ers then must put their Point of Concentration on contact. They 
continue this until another problem, such as "Gibberish!" or "Ex- 
tended movement!" is called. If "Blind!" is called out, of course, 
the players will have to close their eyes. 

When the scene is completed, the teacher asks for it to be re- 
done but this time does not call out. Instead, the teacher chooses 
someone in the student-audience (or many) to call out the Point 
of Concentration. Training for scene improvisation develops di- 
recting skills in everyone. 



EXPLORE AND HEIGHTEN 

Teams of two or more. 

This exercise calls for transformation of the beat and should 
not be done until CONTRAPUNTAL ARGUMENT c (transformation of 
the point of view) and TRANSFORMATION OF RELATIONSHIP have 
been understood and solved. The purpose of the exercise is to 
help players recognize and act upon the varied formations aris- 
ing out of their playing. From the formations (plays, as in a 
game) come beats, and from a heightening of the beats emerges 
a scene. Often players fall into invention, plot, and ad-libbing 

235 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

because they are at a loss and do not see the beats rising out o 
the stage life. This exercise alerts everyone to even the minutest 
possibilities that appear during playing. Sometimes a simple ges- 
ture is explorable, sometimes an idea, an object, a sound. 

As in AUDIENCE DIRECTS and GIVE AND TAKE, team starts off 
with a Where, Who, and What. After players are in motion, mem- 
bers of the audience (including the teacher-director) side-coach 
when they see an opportunity to explore and possibly "transform ." 
Players build on the coaching. 

SIDE COACHING: Explore that idea! Explore and heighten that 
chair! That involvement! That cough! Transform that rela- 
tionship! That beat! Explore the silence! 

EVALUATION 

Were actors given enough time to explore before new coach- 
ing was called out? Were possible beats explored, or just words? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. In all transformation exercises, invention, story-telling, and 
ad-libbing are clearly noticed by student-actors and student- 
audience alike, for true transformation brings fusion and un- 
mistakably new formations. 

2. Because in transforming the beat a limitation is set up by the 
Where, Who, and What, all the changes must remain under 
one roof, so to speak, and do not appear at random. 

3. As in the other transformation exercises, the moment of 
playing must be apprehended and exhausted for a change to 
occur. 



236 



XI. Emotion 

From the beginning student to the performing artist, great 
argument ensues as to how to get emotion or feeling for a particu- 
lar scene. 1 The problem of clarifying what is meant by emotion 
is far from simple, but if emotion is to be handled as a direct act- 
ing problem in the training, a position must be formulated. One 
thing is certain. We must not use personal and/or subjective 
(what we use in daily living) emotion for the stage. It is a private 
matter (like feeling and believing) and not for public viewing. At 
best "real" emotion put on stage can be classified as psycho-drama 
no matter how skillfully it is written or played, and it does not 
constitute a theatrical communication. 

The emotion we need for the theater can only come out of a 
fresh experience; for in such experiencing rests the stirring of 
our total selves organic motion which when combined with 
the theater reality spontaneously brings forth energy and mo- 
tion (stage) for actors and audience alike. This prevents the use 
of old emotion from past experiences being used in a fresh mo- 
ment of experience. It could well be the same formula that cre- 
ated the original personal emotions to begin with, and if this is so, 
all the emotion we use in daily living should evolve out of or- 
ganic motion out of the Where, Who, What, the involvements 
and relationships of our personal lives. 

1 WhHe one book on acting may say that "joy is expressed by raising 
the hands over the head in a figure eight/* student-actors will learn that 
joy can also be shown by wriggling the toes ecstatically. 

237 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

In this way creating our own structure (reality in the theater) 
and playing it instead of living out old emotions, a whole process 
is set going which manufactures its own energy and motion ( emo- 
tion) then and there. This prevents psycho-drama from appearing 
on either side of the stage, for psycho-drama is a vehicle specially 
designed for therapeutic reasons to abstract old emotions from, 
the participating members and put them into a dramatic situation 
to examine them and so release the individual from his personal 
problems. This dramatic structure then, is the only resemblance 
to the play. In theater training, emotion can easily be provoked 
by many devices, and great care must be taken not to misuse 
individual emotion or allow the players to do so. 

When psycho-drama is confused with a play or scene, is in 
fact considered to be the scene, it leads the actor to exploit him- 
self (his emotions) instead of experiencing total organic mo- 
tion. What can psycho-drama do but abstract the tears that 
should come out of our personal grief alone, thus making artistic 
detachment impossible? Emotion newly generated on stage, how- 
ever, remains detached because it is usable only within the struc- 
ture of agreed reality. 

When exercises in the workshops are used for emotional re- 
lease they must be stopped; for the players are working out of 
and on their personal feelings alone. However, as Point of Con- 
centration is understood and used, subjective emotion becomes a 
thing of the past, where it truly belongs. 

By taking the whole problem of emotion, then, and physical- 
izing it, we move it out of its abstracted use and place it within 
the total organism making organic motion possible. For it is the 
physical manifestation of emotion, whether it is a quiet widening 
of the eyes or a violent throwing of a cup, that we can see and 
communicate. 2 

Therefore we must not bring students to the exercises of emo- 
tion too early if we wish to avoid exhibitionism, psycho-drama, 
and general bad taste. The student-actor must not withdraw 
into his subjective world and "emote/" nor should he intellectual- 
ize about "feeling/' which can only limit his expression of it. An 

2 There are many ways to heighten emotion on stage for the audience's 
enjoyment through music, lighting, props, etc. Here we are dealing with the 
student-actor alone. 

238 



Emotion 



audience should not be interested in the personal grief, joy, and 
frustration of the performing actor. It is the skill of the actor 
playing the grief, joy, and frustration of the character portrayed 
that holds us captive. 



Physicalization 



SILENT SCREAM 

Full group. 

To help the student-actors feel emotion physically (inner ac- 
tion), ask the seated group to scream without making a sound. 
Coach them: Scream with you toes! Jour eyes! Jour back! Jour 
stomach! Your legs! Jour whole body! 

When they are responding physically and muscularly as they 
would for a vocal screamand this will be very evident call: 
Scream out loud! The sound should be deafening. 

This exercise not only gives students a direct experience to 
remember but is very useful for rehearsing mob scenes. Watch 
for the self -protective student-actor who will "act" out this exer- 
cise instead of doing it. 



INABILITY TO MOVE A 

Single player. 

Player goes on stage and presents a situation in which he is 
physically immobilized and is being threatened by an outside 
danger. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: inability to move. 
EXAMPLE: Paralyzed man in a wheelchair senses someone be- 
hind him (Another player could actually be moving behind him.) 



INABILITY TO MOVE B 

Two or more players. 

A group of people are in a situation whereby it is impossible 
for them to move because of some outside danger. 

239 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: players' immobility because of outside 

danger. 

EXAMPLE: Soldiers stranded in a minefield. Robbers hiding 

in a closet. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Only now will the introduction and discussion of activity and 
inner action be meaningful for students. Action does not nec- 
essarily mean activity, nor does activity always mean action. 
For our purposes, the word "activity" is used to denote out- 
ward stage movement, and the words "inner action" to explain 
internal movement. The term "inner action" means physical- 
ization of feeling and replaces the term "emotion" whenever 
necessary. 

2. To help students acquire this new awareness, bring up a dis- 
cussion of the two terms. They must understand which comes 
first activity/dialogue or inner action. Does the actor, like 
the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland, cry out before the 
pin has stuck the finger? All have probably seen the roughness 
and lack of reality in the scene where the actor reads, "It's 
cold in here" and then proceeds to shiver; for although the 
two might in some cases occur simultaneously, inner action 
generally precedes activity/dialogue: 

1) Inner Action 2) Activity 3) Dialogue 

Hunger Go to refrig- "What's there to 

Physical response: erator eat?" 

Salivary glands 

work, etc. 

3. An infant acts with his whole body (internally and externally), 
he laughs or cries from head to toe. However, as we grow 
older, we muscularly hold many manifestations of feeling. As 
a result of cultural pattern, we are forced to hold our tears and 
stifle our laughter. An emotion may work in our stomach, tin- 
gle along our spines, or give us cold chills, but outwardly, we 
have become conditioned to show this emotion physically only 
in isolated areas. We grit our teeth, clench our fist, and keep 
a stiff upper lip. It is essential to release these holds for full 
natural movement. 

240 



Emotion 

4. From now on use side coaching to remind the student-actors: 
More inner action, please! Physicalize that feeling! Feel it in 
your toes! This Point of Concentration will enable the student- 
actors to really show how they feel instead of merely talking 
or purusing meaningless activity. 

CHANGING EMOTION 

Single player. 

When student-actors thoroughly understand inner action 
(physicalizing), show them how it can shift and change, even 
though the activity remains the same. In this exercise, the player 
completes an activity. Then, for some reason, the activity must 
be undone after it is completed, using the same objects the sec- 
ond time, but in reverse and with a different inner action. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: physicalizing emotion or feeling 

through the objects. 

EXAMPLE: Activity a girl is making up and dressing for a 
dance. First inner action -pleasure, caused by her feelings about 
the event. Second inner action disappointment, caused by learn- 
ing that the dance has been canceled. 

As one part of the activity, while influenced by the first inner 
action the girl might have taken the dress from the closet and 
held it against herself as she danced dreamily around the room. 
After learning that the dance had been canceled, she might have 
held the dress against herself and then rolled it up and thrown it 
back into the closet thereby reversing motions in the same ac- 
tivity and responding to the second inner action. 
SIDE COACHING: More inner action, please! Physicalize that 

thought! 

EVALUATION 

Was the activity identical before and after the turning point? 
Was the inner action communicated to the audience through 
body changes? What does pleasure do to one physically? What 
does disappointment create Mnesthetically? (See remarks on 
showing inner action through the use of objects, p. 382.) 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. The same activity must be carried out both times. As in the 

241 



IMPROVISATION FOB THE THEATER 

example, if the girl applied her make-up and then took the 
dress from the closet, she would put the dress back and re- 
move the inake-up after the turning point. 

2. When the first inner action is well set, the teacher-director 
can ring the phone or send another student on stage to pro- 
vide the necessary information to change the inner action, if 
necessary. 

3. It would be well to note that the students can communicate 
their feelings very effectively by their handling of objects (as 
shown by the girl's handling of her dress before and after 
the turning point) , 3 

4 If changing inner action is shown only through facial manner- 
isms, students are "acting** (performing) and have not under- 
stood the meaning of physicalization. Go back to early exer- 
cises of involvement with objects. 



CHANGING INTENSITY OF INNER ACTION 

Two or more advanced students. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Emotion must start at 
one point and then become progressively stronger. For instance, 
the sequence might run: from affection to love to adoration; from 
suspicion to fear to terror; from irritation to anger to rage. 

The inner action can also run in a circle, concluding back at 
the original emotion (e.g., affection to love to adoration to love 
to affection). However, this generally can be accomplished only 
through side coaching by the teacher. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: changing the emotion from one level 
to the next. 

EXAMPLE: Wherea camp scene. Who a group of teen-age 
girls. What they think their counselor has deserted them for 
another group. Changing inner action loss to sadness to grief. 
In this scene, the inner action was carried through a full cycle 
by side coaching. When they arrived at grief, the coaching began; 
and they responded emotionally in the following order: 



3 See PHYSICALIZING OBJECTS, p. 78. 
242 



Emotion 

1. self-pity 7. affection 

2. anger 8. love 

3. hostility 9. self-responsibility 

4. guilt 10. understanding 

5. grief 11. self-respect 

6. sadness 12. admiration for each other 

EVALUATION 

Were they acting (emoting) or showing inner action (physi- 
calizing)? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. In this exercise, the teacher-director should work very closely 
with the players, taking his cue from them as they pick up 
their cues from him. 

2. If the group is ready, these scenes can become very exciting 
improvisations. However, if the scenes end up in mere chit- 
chat, the exercise has been presented too soon and the stu- 
dents need more foundation work. 



JUMP EMOTION 

Two or more players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Each player chooses 
some radical change of inner action, which he plans beforehand, 
and fits into the scene (e.g., fear to heroism, love to pity, etc.). 

Floorplans should be used here, particularly if the actors are 
getting sloppy about stage set-ups. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: changing from one emotion (inner ac- 
tion) to the other, 

EXAMPLE; Wherefoxhole. Who two soldiers. What a dan- 
gerous mission. Jump changes of inner action #1 anger to under- 
derstanding; #2, fear to heroism. 

Soldier #1 was angered at the cowardice shown by soldier 
#2, a shy sensitive boy whose seeming cowardice was a revulsion 
against killing another person. During the scene, a bullet struck 
soldier #1, wounding him; and soldier #2 bravely undertook the 
mission, although it was not his duty to do so. As the players kept 

243 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

their concentration on trying to make their shifts of emotion dur- 
ing the action, the scene developed to unusual dramatic height. 

EVALUATION 

Same as in previous inner-action exercises, 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

To make a game of this exercise, designate examples of changing 
emotions on some slips of paper, put Where suggestions on others, 
and then let the players draw from each pile, as in the THEME- 
SCENE exercise (p. 218) . 



SHOWING EMOTION THROUGH OBJECTS 

Two or more players. 

Special Materials Needed 

balloon bell 

sandbag feathers 

ball egg beater 

chains rubber band 

triangle jumping rope 

bean bag P ar ty to 7 s 

horn trapeze ( or swinging rope ) 

ladder 

This is only a sample list; items may be substituted or added as 
desired. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. All objects are on a 
table which is easily accessible to all players on stage without 
disturbing their set or stage movement. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to use an object, selected spontaneously 
at the moment the actor needs it, to show a feeling or relation- 
ship. 

EXAMPLE A: Where bedroom. Who three sisters, two older 
and one younger. What two older sisters are dressing to go out; 
younger sister wishes she could go along with them. 

While dressing, the two older sisters discussed their anticipation 
of the evening's fun. They threw balloons, blew feathers, and 
jumped rope. The younger sister, sadly bewailing the fact that she 

244 



Emotion 

could not go with them, walked around the bedroom weighted 
down with a sandbag, which she sometimes put on her shoulders 
and sometimes dragged along on the floor. 

EXAMPLE B (for formal theater): A love scene between a bash- 
ful couple could make use of a ball rolled back and forth between 
their feet. 

EXAMPLE c: A scene where someone was trying to "pass the 
buck" could be physicalized by tossing a bean bag back and 
forth among the two or three players involved. 

EVALUATION 

Did the objects follow the action? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

This exercise is especially helpful for the director of formal the- 
ater. It can give unusual nuances to actors, even those with small 
amounts of training. 



SHOWING INNER ACTION THROUGH OBJECTS #2 

Players repeat same scene as in SHOWING INNER ACTION 
THROUGH THE USE OF OBJECTS #1, attempting to retain the feeling 
of the objects without using them. 

EVALUATION 

Did they retain the quality of the scene when they worked 
without the objects? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

The second time the scene is done, keep reminding the players 
(through side coaching) of the objects that were used for the 
first scene. 



EMOTION GAME 

Entire group. 

One player starts game, which can be enlarged to include 
other players (as in Where and Orientation games). He com- 
municates Where he is and Who he is. What happens to him 
should be around a disaster, accident, hysteria, grief, etc. Other 

245 



IMPBOVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

players enter the scene as definite characters, set up relationships 
with Where and Who, and play the scene. 

EXAMPLE A: Where-street corner. Who-elderly man. What- 
car hits man as he crosses street. 

The old man tentatively steps into the street. He is hit by a car 
and falls screaming to the ground. Other players enter as driver 
of car, cops, friends, passersby, ambulance driver, doctor, etc. 

EXAMPLE B: Where hospital room. Who woman. What seated 
at bedside of dying relative. 

Player moves around room showing hospital environment. She 
shows us her relationship with the patient in the bed and her 
grief at his state of health. Other players enter scene as relatives, 
doctor, nurses, priest, another patient, etc. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. If the teacher-director observes that the players are not en- 
tering into the game with enthusiasm, energy, and excitement, 
then it has not been presented properly, and steps should be 
retraced. 

2. This game may be scattered throughout training or presented 
at the time emotion is introduced to the group. It is very 
useful when working on crowd scenes. 



REJECTION 

Two or more players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Players must reject 
other players, adopting one of the following patterns: 

1. One group rejects another group. 

2. A group rejects an individual. 

3. An individual rejects a group. 

4. An individual rejects an individual. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on effective rejection. 

EXAMPLES: New person in neighborhood is rejected. Someone 
is rejected because of race, color, or creed. Substitute teacher is 
rejected by the class. 

246 



Emotion 

EVALUATION 

Did they solve the problem? What was the weather? Did they 
show us the time? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

By now, all the scenes should have a definite theatrical life. Eval- 
uation is a way to remind players they might be getting careless 
in setting up the details of a scene. 



EMOTION THROUGH CAMERA TECHNIQUES 

Two or more players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Players begin scene. 
From time to time during the action, the teacher-director calls 
out to "frame" different actors. Each time, the other actors on 
stage become "cameras" and focus on the one framed. The actor 
thus framed continues to play the scene normally; but he now has 
the intense attention of all the players around him. The scene 
continues to play with all actors remaining in their characters, 
whether cameras or subject. The framing is simply a way of 
heightening the scene. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: intense body energy is to be focused 

on the actor being framed. 

EXAMPLE: Where throne room of a palace. Who king, cour- 
tiers, a courier. What waiting for news. The courier, badly 
beaten, comes into the palace with bad news. The court must 
decide what to do. 

EVALUATION 

Was the full body energy used to focus on the framed actor? 
Did they show us where they were? How old was the king (or 
whoever was in the scene) ? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. The interchange of the word "light" with "frame" will aid 
in evoking the intensity needed. Side coaching should shift 
the camera as necessary. 

2. Exercises like this one when used during rehearsals of a 
formal play, where actual lights can be brought in simultane- 

247 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



ously with the players' framing, can put much heightened 
stage energy into the players* performance. 

3. This exercise is particularly good for student-directors, since 
they can easily take over the side coaching. 

4. This exercise is similar to TWO SCENES (p. 160) . 



Conflict 



Conflict should not be given to student-actors until they thor- 
oughly understand playing the Point of Concentration (object) 
to create relationships. If such set conditions are given too early, 
involvement will take place between the players themselves, thus 
creating subjective emotional scenes or verbal battles between 
them. This is an important point and one difficult to understand. 
In fact, this writer used conflict extensively in the early years of 
her work as part of the Where exercise. It seemed useful, for it 
invariably created some stage activity (when it wasn't on a "you- 
did-and-I-didn't level). This was because by creating involve- 
ment with each other directly, it stirred up personal feelings and 
tension in the players and in many instances was close to psycho- 
drama. This gave the players the feeling of "acting." As we are 
working in an art form, the personal emotions of players must 
be distilled and objectified through the form in which they are 
working an art form insists upon this objectivity. In spite of this 
obvious fact, however, conflict seemed to bring "life" into the 
Where exercise and was a definite step towards contact, and so 
was retained as one of the problems given during the early stage 
of Where. 

In time, it became apparent that unless the players used the 
physical objects in Where to show conflict, many unpleasant as- 
pects of subjectivity (such as emotionalism or verbal battles) 
were bound to result. Further, very little if any scene progression 
took place. However, it was important to note that despite the 
"unpleasant" aspects, tension and release freeing energy (physi- 
cal action) were always generated between players. Only after 
the author came to Chicago to direct workshops and discussed 
this point many times with Paul Sills (director of Second City) 

248 



Emotion 

was the question of conflict finally resolved. The same tension and 
release generated through conflict can be accomplished with the 
student-actor when he is kept on the problem as presented by the 
Point of Concentration (object) and not allowed to wander off 
into story-telling or playwriting. 

It became evident that the players' involvement with each 
other (as produced by conflict) instead of involvement with the 
object ( as produced by the Point of Concentration ) was for the 
most part a mutual pushing around (which is confused in our 
minds as dramatic action) to get to one's goal and in no sense 
a process out of which scene improvisation could develop. On the 
other hand, relationship between players created by involve- 
ment with the object made objective tension and release (physi- 
cal action) possible and at the same time produced scene im- 
provisations. This would seem so because conflict remained in 
the area of the emotional and could therefore never make the 
spring into the intuitive, which consistently happens when we 
allow the Point of Concentration to work for us. 

If players are absorbed (involved) with story only, conflict 
is necessary. Without it, the scene gets bogged down, and little 
or no action can possibly take place. At best, however, it is titila- 
tion and imposed action and for the most part produces psycho- 
drama. However, when process is understood, and, further, that 
story is the residue of process, dramatic action is the result, for 
energy and stage-action are generated by the simple process of 
playing. By constantly stopping student-actors from playwriting 
and continuously clarifying the whole point of process versus 
story, the teacher found that conflict was no longer needed to 
generate stage-action, and so this exercise with its emotionalism 
and verbal battles fell into disuse. 

Now conflict takes its place along with the later exercises. It 
is useful; it can be fun to do. A teacher-director may be tempted 
to use it earlier than advisable, when there are difficulties in 
understanding process and playing, to "stir up" some action. If 
he does this, however, he must know that it is a device and be- 
cause of the personal emotions it stirs up, it constitutes a "bribed 
Its use in this way may be permitted us when it becomes most 
important to hold a student's interest until process and therefore 
playing are understood. 

249 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



To summarize. When players work with story alone, they need 
a conflict to generate energy and stage-action. When they under- 
stand playing (process), however, tension and release freeing 
energy are clearly seen as an integral part of playing in fact this 
is playing. 



CONFLICT EXERCISE 

Pairs. 

PRELIMINARY 

To give the communication of conflict being tension between 
two people, have student-actors go on stage in twos and have a 
tug-of-war with a real rope. Discussion on the tug-of-war should 
be around the physical tension in each one of them as they strive 
to pull their opponent over the center line. Further discussion 
should be on the outcome of the tug-of-war, when one pulled the 
other over, both fell over, or a stalemate was reached. 

EXERCISE 

Two or more players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Add a conflict. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: the conflict (rope) between them. 

SIDE COACHING: Pull the rope! Stay with the Point of Con- 
centration! 

EVALUATION 

Did they stay with the Point of Concentration? Did each indi- 
vidual actor hang on to his end of the rope? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

In preparing the scene, listen to groups carefully to see that the 
conflict will be such that it will permit physical action and not 
just an argument. Conflict and/or rope are used interchangeably 
to help physicalize the conflict for the players. 



HIDDEN CONFLICT 

Two or more players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Each player takes a 

250 



Emotion 

conflict and states it to himself in the first person without letting 
the other know what it is. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: never to verbalize the problem (con- 
flict). 

EXAMPLE: Where kitchen. Who husband and wife. What 

breakfast. 

Hidden conflict: Husband I am not going to work. Wife I want 

him to leave. I'm expecting a visitor. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Let audience know each players hidden conflict. 

2. When the hidden conflict is stated, the scene is over. 

3. Variation of this is to write a series of hidden conflicts on slips 
of paper and let actors pick after they have decided on Where, 
Who, and What, 

4. HIDDEN CONFLICT forces use of objects and was one of the early 
exercises that started the semantic shift from "conflict" to 
"problem/' thus opening up new doors of inquiry. 



WHAT TO DO WITH THE OBJECT 

Two players. 

Players agree on object between them. Object is to be set in 
motion in some agreed way such as: selling it, destroying it, build- 
ing it, hiding it. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on what to do with the object. 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

This is similar to the Involvement exercises in the orientation 
session. It takes the players further, however, for it can be used 
to set up emotions directly involving players through the object. 
While the Point of Concentration in the earlier exercises was on 
the object between the players, the present Point of Concentration 
is on what is happening to the object. It therefore sets up a 
different relationship between the players. If a story is imposed 
on the object and players **act," limit them to a simple activity. 
Return to this exercise at a later date when the group has learned 
how to let the POC work for them. 

251 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

CONFLICT GAME 

Full group. 

Played as in Orientation and Where games. Two players go 
on stage. They agree upon a conflict that can allow for many 
others to take part. Other members of workshop decide Who and 
enter scene to take sides. 

EXAMPLES: Wherea street corner. Who a policeman and a 
soap-box orator. What an arrest. Conflict policeman arresting 
orator because of the content of his speech. Players entering 
scene can be workman, bums, housewives, more policemen, etc. 
Where playground. Who two boys. What playing. Conflict- 
one boy is a bully. Those entering scene can become other chil- 
dren, teachers, mothers, etc. 



252 



XII. Character 

Character is presented as the last large problem in the hand- 
book. It should not be given as a direct exercise until the student- 
actors have solved the earlier workshop problems and have 
learned to work with the POC. Although it may be tempting to 
present and discuss character exercises in earlier workshops, it 
is best to wait until students appear to be fully in contact with 
each other and fully involved with the acting problem (see Chap- 
ter XI). 

Character is intrinsic in everything we do on stage. From the 
very first acting class, this thread has crossed and re-crossed the 
fabric of our work. Character can grow only out of personal re- 
lationship with the total stage life. If the actor is truly to play his 
role, character must not be given as an intellectual exercise in- 
dependent of this involvement. 

Premature attention to character on a verbal level may throw 
the student-actor into role-playing, keeping him from involve- 
ment with the Point of Concentration and relationship with his 
fellow players. Instead of reaching out into the stage environ- 
ment, he will withdraw further behind his self-protecting walls. 
It will be himself acting out his private needs and feelings; it 
will be himself mirroring himself; it will be himself giving an in- 
terpretation of a character, an intellectual exercise. 

253 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

In the unskilled student this wall be quickly uncovered, but it 
is far more difficult to catch in the more clever and skilled actor. 
Character must be used as further theatrical communication, not 
as withdrawal. To insure this, do not work on character until 
students are "playing" their scene. Always keep them from "act- 
ing" (performing) in their early work, by stopping an exercise 
if necessary. Avoid discussing character except in the most casual 
way, on a simple Who basis (relationship). Remember, since 
most students know that character is the essence of theater, this 
absence of direct character discussion may be very confusing 
to them until they begin to see character emerge out of the 
relationships and realize that "acting" is a wall between players. 

When they learn to be involved with the Point of Concentra- 
tion, relate to each other, and solve the group problem, they will 
"trust the scheme" and be ready for direct exercises in developing 
physical qualities for a character. An actor must see and relate 
to a fellow actor, not a "character." We play football with other 
human beings, not with the uniforms they are wearing. This sim- 
ply means that both players know the other is playing and go 
along with the game. 



Developing A Character 



When student-actors plan a scene around an acting problem, 
what is it that determines who among them shall play the grand- 
mother and who the maiden aunt? This is all implicit in what is 
known as characterization. 

In Orientation, the studentsby simply observing whether 
others are comfortable or uncomfortable are able to catch man- 
nerisms. OBIENTATION GAME, HOW OLD AM I? and WHAT DO I DO 

FOR A LIVING? all introduce character without calling attention to 
it. In Where we ask: "How do you know what people are to each 
other?"; and the youngest student answers, "By the way they act 
together." And every early Who exercise handles the problem of 
character. 

In Evaluation we raise such questions as: "How old was he?" 
"Did he show us he was a man who fanned for a living?" "Did the 

254 



Character 

miser look as if lie loved gold more than people?" If we question 
carefully, even the youngest child will be able to express the dif- 
ferences between people whether the distinguishing quality is in 
mannerism, tone of voice, or tempo of movement. 

After many years, our usual facial expressions, posture, and 
movements become muscular reflections of our inner state. Emo- 
tion can be expressed only through character. In The Thinking 
Body, Mabel Elsworth Todd states: 

"Emotion constantly finds expression in bodily position; if not in the 
furrowed brow or set mouth, then in limited breathing, in the tight 
held neck muscles, or in the slumped body of listlessness and dis- 
couragement." 

It could be said that, in time, a man might well become a por- 
trait of himself -for a man becomes the physical expression of an 
attitude (a life attitude) . How many of us can pick out a doctor, 
a public relations man, a schoolteacher, or an actor in a crowd 
and be 85 per cent correct? 

Simple involvement with objects can come to life only through 
character. In developing material for scenes (Chapter IX), char- 
acter development is handled more directly as the "play" is set up 
and the need for definite characters arises. GIBBERISH, CONTACT, 
BLIND, and other exercises insist upon strong stage relationships 
which create definite character attitudes and actions. 

What is acting with the whole body (Chapter V) but a way of 
showing the actor how his body can be an expressive instrument? 
And for what purpose? To communicate with an audience more 
comprehensively. To communicate what? A character within a 
play. 

Experiment with a group. Tell them that they will be given a 
quick command. When the teacher-director claps his hands, they 
are to carry out the command instantly without thought, 

"Portray an old manf* is called. Invariably, almost 90 per cent 
of the students will lean forward, hand on hip, as if resting on a 
cane. Discuss their generalization (cliche) with them. Do all old 
men necessarily lean forward? There are millions of old men- 
some are straight and tall. What makes a person old? 

The generalization (cliche) is not necessarily untrue, merely 
abstracted and thus limited. To the student-actor, the old man 

265 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

may weU be a person who leans on a cane, has white hair, and 
moves slowly, and this economy of selection is important to keep. 

Old age is, after all, recognizable. The students, in selecting 
the characteristics which would instantly communicate an old 
man, chose die simplest of them all, infirmity. And that was what 
they gave in answer to the command. It is from this kind of sim- 
ple selection that the actor develops his characterization. 

What they will come to know as they gain perception is that 
an old man can show his age and his feelings in his feet, his el- 
bows, and his voice, as well as in his white hair and cane. 

Developing a character is the ability to abstract a sketch from 
the welter of the complex whole. This ability to show the essence 
of something rather than the detailed whole has within it the 
artist's full awareness of the minutest detail. 

The actor's skill depends upon this selection and his ability 
to communicate it. All can select: the immature will choose the 
obvious (leaning on a cane); the artist will make a finer, more 
varied selection (arthritic hand, cataract-blinded eye, thickened 
tongue, etc. ) .* But no matter what is selected, simple or profound, 
and whatever the age or experience of the student-actor, when 
he responds to his stage life, at the same time character appears; 
for characterization is dependent upon the total theater ex- 
perience as well as recognition of a fellow man. 

The actor is surrounded by a circle of characteristics voice, 
mannerisms, physical movement all of which are given life by 
his energy and full contact with his stage environment. If he is 
taught to think this way, then the mystery of acting and charac- 
terization will be replaced by a more workmanlike, teachable con- 
cept. The student-actor will develop himself as an alert, perceiv- 
ing, free person, capable of reaching beyond his day-to-day life. 
He will be able to "play" a role. He will be alive, human, interde- 
pendent, working with his fellow players. He will be himself the 
actor playing the game of the character he has chosen to com- 
municate. 

How much better to think of him this way, as a human being 
working within an art form, than as a schizophrenic who has 
changed his own personality for the sake of a role in a play! 

1 The player need not "become" the old man. Rather, he presents the 
old man to us for purposes of communication. 

256 



Character 

Physicalizing 

A student can dissect, analyze, intellectualize, and develop a 
valuable case history of a character; but if he is not able to com- 
municate this physically, it is useless within the theater form. 
Reaching the intuitive, on which the insight into a role rests, does 
not come from a logical, intellectual knowledge of our character. 

The following group of exercises deal with the problem of 
character on a physical structural basis, from which a character 
may emerge. The question arises as to whether an actor should 
assufrte outward physical qualities to get a feeling of a character 
or work on feeling to get the physical qualities. Sometimes a phys- 
ical attitude or expression will give us an intuitive jump. In these 
exercises we play the game every way. (See also Chapters X and 
XL) 



Who Games 2 



Absorb the following exercises carefully so as to be able to 
present them to student-actors at the time when they will most 
effectively act as a series of simple steps toward character de- 
velopment. They can be used as warm-ups or developed into 
full exercises. 



WHO GAME B 

Two or more players. Wto, Where, and What agreed upon. 
(Players should choose a simple relationship and activity, such 
as husband and wife watching TV.) 

Have each player write on individual slips of paper a list of 
facial features and tiben descriptions of those features. The de- 
scriptions should be emotional rather than structural. Players 
should make out slips for each facial feature. For instance: 

lower lip-sad 

upper lip-petulant 

tip of nose-sharp 



2 Some of the Who games are presented in Chapter IV. 

257 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

nostrils-annoyed 

eyes-beady 

eyebrows-serene 

forehead-overhanging 

chin-belligerent 

shape of face-saucy 

When the slips have been completed, separate them by fea- 
tures and put the slips into piles. Let each player pick one slip 
from each pile. The players are not to take on as many of the 
descriptions as they wish and retain them while playing their 
scene. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: To keep as many of the facial qualities 

as possible while going through the scene. 

EVALUATION 

To actors: Did holding these physical aspects make you feel 
mechanical? Did you gain any new insights? 

To audience: did any of the actors show a new character 
quality? Did the facial qualities seem integrated with the scene? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

Mirrors for the players when they first try to take on their physical 
characteristics can be helpful. 



WHO GAME C 

Instead of choosing facial descriptions., the players are now 
to list emotions for body attitude. For instance: 
shoulders-sad 
stomach-angry 
chest-joyous 
legs-suspicious 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: showing feeling through body attitudes 
while going through scene. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. WHO GAMES B and c may also be used for developing physical 
rather than emotional attitudes. To do so, just substitute de- 
scriptions (e.g., stiff tipper lip, a harp nose, bowed legs, etc.) 

258 



Character 

2. Both WHO GAMES are very useful for the director of the formal 
theater. 



WHO GAME C, ADDING CONFLICT 

Same as WHO GAME A, p. 109, with addition of pre-planning the 
state of the unknowing player (conflict or tension). 
EXAMPLE: A on stage. B pre-plans that A is a mean, taciturn 
parent while she herself is a teen-ager. Where living room. 
Who mean taciturn parent (seated); teen-ager (enters). What 
teen-ager comes home late from a date. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. This exercise can usually be continued beyond the solving of 
the problem, for tension between the two players comes up 
automatically. 

2. Again, letting the audience in on the reverse point of view is 
intensely interesting. 

Physicalizing Attitudes 

HOLD IT! A 

Four or more players (even division of males and females de- 
sirable). 

Have players sit on stage. Ask each of them individually to 
give a short expressive statement such as: "Nobody loves me." "I 
never have any fun/* "I wish I had nice things/* "Tomorrow will 
be better" 

When the player has achieved a definite physical expression 
(full body) as a result of his phrase, tell him to "Hold It!" When 
all the players have their "held expressions," put them through 
a series of three- to four-minute scenes. For example: 

children in nursery school 

a grammar-school graduation platform or classroom 

a street corner 

an office party 

marriage proposal (if there are two or more couples, place 

them in "parked cars" and combine give-and-take with this 

exercise) 

259 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

middle-age (party at someone's home) 
old age (meeting for card game or such) 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to keep the original facial and body 
expression throughout the scenes. 

EVALUATION 

Did the expression become an attitude towards others within 
the scenes? Where the basic expressions (attitudes) maintained, 
even if somewhat altered in each scene? (Naturally, the love 
scene would have some alteration, as would the nursery scene 
versus the old-age scene. ) 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. If a phrase does not evoke an attitude, suggest that the player 
take on an exact physical expression (e.g., belligerent chin, 
petulant mouth, overhanging forehead, wide-open eyes, etc. ) . 

2. Do not use this exercise with young students. Players should 
be at least in their teens. 

3. HOIJ) IT! can be given around the eighth or ninth Where 
workshop session and repeated at later dates. 

4. One student, on completion of HOLD IT!, said: "I feel as 
if I've gone through a lifetime!" 



HOLD IT! B 

Vary HOLD rr! A by having the players take on body expres- 
sions (hunched shoulders, firm aggressive step, pigeon-toed, ex- 
panded chest, flabby stomach muscles, etc. ) . Carry them through 
six or seven scenes. 

EVALUATION 

Did their body attitudes (expressions) alter their ways of 
speaking? 

HOLD IT! C 

Two or more players. 

Where, Who, and What are agreed upon after the students 

260 



Character 

have each achieved a physical expression and been told to "Hold 
it!" 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: retaining one or two physical aspects 
throughout (pulled-in chin, extra weight, etc.) 

EVALUATION 

Did the chosen physical characteristics influence the players* 
choice of Where, Who, and What? 



Physical Visualization 



The use of images in getting a character quality is an old and 
tried technique and can sometimes bring a totally new dimen- 
sion to an actor's role. Images can be based on pictures or any 
object, animate or inanimate, that the actor chooses. However, 
getting character in this way is at best a device. 

In the formal play, such images should be used only when 
the character development has not evolved from the total stage 
relationship. Actors who have had some experience with this 
way of working are eager to begin work on the character imme- 
diately and sometimes set about taking some image privately 
without letting the director know. This becomes a serious handi- 
cap, for the director and actor may be at odds with one another. 
The director may be working to get rid of the very mannerisms 
the actor is hanging on to because of the image he has created 
for himself. 

It is, however, useful in emergencies. Once, for example, a 
girl was asked to step into a small part on a few hours' notice, 
because of the sudden illness of the regular actor. She was playing 
in another one-act play on the same bill. In rehearsal, it was soon 
evident that she could not easily shake the characteristics of the 
other role. Her regular part was that of a shy, frightened girl; 
but the new one was a portrayal of a perky, talkative woman. 
By suggesting that she take an animal image, specifically a 
turkey, the director enabled her to project the necessary qualities 
for the role almost immediately. 

In improvisational theater, when suggestions by the audience 

261 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



are part of a program, Images can give the actor an instant char- 
acter quality which adds to his versatility. 



ANIMAL IMAGES 3 

Four or more players. 

If at all possible, take the workshop group to a zoo or barn- 
yard to observe the movement, rhythm, and actual physical 
characteristics of animals the bone and facial structures are as 
important as the more obvious movement. In this way, student- 
actors will have an actual impression to recapture, not simply a 
picture in a book. Generalization is to be avoided if the exercise 
is to have any value. 

Separately, each player decides what animal he will portray. 
The players do not need to discuss their choices with one another. 
Each player is to take on the exact physical qualities of his animal 
and is then to move around the stage as the animal. Side coaching 
must go on throughout the exercise to free the actors to work on 
the problem. 

When the students have released their total selves into the 
animal qualities and have captured some new body rhythms, 
then coach them to make the sounds of their animals. Continue 
coaching until all resistances are gone and the sound and body 
movements are integrated. 

Now, coach the players to become human again, to stand up- 
right and move about the stage, absorbing the animal charac- 
teristics and sound into their human actions and speech. They 
are to keep the rhythm of the animals in their bodies and the 
sound of the animals in the words they are mouthing. As before, 
they are to move about the stage at random. 

When they are all moving around upright and have absorbed 
the animal characteristics and sound, the teacher-director quickly 
sets up a Where, Who, and What for them. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to make the body rhythm, facial ex- 
pression, and vocal sounds of their animals their own. 
SIDE COACHING: Re-shape your forehead! The nose! The faw! 
Concentrate on the spine! Concentrate on the tail! The back legs! 



s The basic exercise is attributed to Maria Ouspenskay, 
262 



Character 

When they are moving freely around the stage, coach: Give the 
sound of your animal! 

When the sound and body movements are integrated, coach: 
Become human! Stand upright! Keep your animal qualities! Keep 
your animal rhythms! Sound like your animal! Use a human voice 
with the animal sound! 

EXAMPLE: Four players took for their individual visualizations a 
parrot, a cat, a hippopotamus, and an owl. 4 In solving the prob- 
lem, the parrot became a shrewish talkative person. The cat was 
lithe and shy, the hippo heavy-voiced, lumbering and sullen, and 
the owl was a wide-eyed naive young girl. 

The combination suggested an office, perhaps a school office. 
A table, chair, and bench were quickly set up. Windows and 
doors, drinking fountains, etc. were pointed out to define Where 
(this was done very swiftly, reminding the actors to keep their 
Point of Concentration). Where school office. Who assistant 
principal, parents, children. What settling childrens* problems. 

The parrot was the assistant principal, who decided which per- 
son could gain admittance to the inner office. Her staccato, repeti- 
tive phrasing lent itself well to this. The others were parents 
and children waiting to see the principal. 

Parrot: All right, all right . . , who's next? Who's next, 

(Asst. Principal) I said? Who's next? I haven't all day, you 
know. 

Hippo: (Moving slowly, rubbing his hands on his legs.) 
(Father) It's me, I guess 

Parrot: Hurry up! Hurry up! Hurry up! I haven't all 

day you know. Just look at all the people we 
have to see today. Dear, dear, dear! 

Hippo: (Head forward, shoulders hunched, slow heavy 

voice. ) It's about my daughter. 

Parrot: (Voice rising.) Did you hear that? Did you 

hear that? (Cackles.) Of course! Of course! 
That's what you are here for. Your daugjater is 



4 This scene was done by twelve-to-f ourteen-year-olds. 

263 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

right there. I know her well. (Looks at owl 
who is on the verge of tears.) And this young 
man! 

Cat: (Turns his head and body away from her sharp 

(Boy) scrutiny and slides down to the edge of the 

bench.) 

Parrot: Well, well, what are we going to do about 

these children? 

Hippo: I dunno . . . she said she didn't mean to do 

nothin'. (To Owl.) Didn't you? 

Owl: (Wide-eyed, lips pursed, tearful) Ooooooh . . . 

(Daughter) Oooooooooo . . .Oooooooooh! 

Parrot: (To Cat.) Now you! You there! You! Where 

are your parents. They were to be here! You 
know that! 

Cat: They c-c-couldn't beeeooooowwww here! 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. If the actors lose their animal rhythms of body and voice 
when they stand upright, have them go back on all fours again 
to the original animal image. This should restore the qualities 
they are using. 

2. When the actors speak as humans, they must sound like 
humans with the added animal quality; not like an animal 
talking. 

3. To avoid breaking the flow generated by this exercise, set 
up a situation for the student-actors as they are moving about 
the stage. By close observation of body attitudes, rhythm, 
and voice quality that appear when they are "human," a 
situation will spontaneously suggest itself. Quickly, giving 
the acting group a Where, Why, and What, come on stage and 
set it up for them. Cast each player and have them move di- 
rectly into the situation. 

STATUES 

Two or more players, one back-stage worker (optional). (This 
is based on the common children's game. ) 

264 



Character 

An outside person swings the players around and then lets 
them go so that each one falls into some random position. Players 
must then hold these positions until each position suggests to its 
player one of the following: a Where; a character (Who); an 
emotion; an activity; a relationship. The players then make con- 
tact with one another and develop a structure using one or all of 
the above categories. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: body position and responding to fel- 
low players according to category selected. 

EVALUATION 

Did the actors fall into position naturally when swung around, 
or did they set a position for themselves (thereby controlling or 
playwriting? Did the action evolve spontaneously between them? 

To actors: did you individually decide Where, Who, etc., or 
did it spring from the group contact? Did back-stage effects im- 
plement stage action or impose upon it? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Watch for the playwriters. They will try to maneuver the 
others into what they decide is tie way the scene should go. 

2. Each category can be given singly in place of offering a 
choice. For instance, if Who (character) is the category, then 
the Where, What, Involvement, etc. must take place spon- 
taneously out of Who. 

3. Because many immature actors feel uncomfortable in long 
silences, (see SILENT TENSION, p. 188), side coaching on the 
Point of Concentration during die pre-scene quiet period will 
help relieve students of the urgency to premature activity. 

4 A variation of this exercise is to instruct the players to end 
the scene by returning to their original positions and having 
a reason for doing so. 

Physical Attributes 

PHYSICAL EXAGGERATION 5 

Two or more players. 

Where, Who, and What agreed upon. Each player is to take 

5 See also Chapter V. 

265 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

t 

on some exaggerated physical quality., which he is to retain 
throughout the scene. 

EXAMPLES: 10 feet tall, 2 feet tall, weighing 500 pounds, wear- 
ing size 20 shoes, a large chest, foot-long index fingers, legs and 
feet are pogo sticks, legs and feet are springs, legs and feet are 
round balls. This exercise can be done with full group. Players 
walk around stage and take on exaggerated qualities as coached. 

COSTUME PIECE 

Two or more players 

Each player selects a costume piece (cane, derby hat, scarf, 

umbrella, etc.) He is to assume character qualities (attitudes) 

suggested by his costume piece. Who, Where, and What agreed 

upon. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: actors are to retain the character quali- 
ties (attitudes) suggested by their costume bits. 

EVALUATION 

Did he impose character on his costume piece, or did he let 
the costume piece determine his character for him? 

POINT OF OBSERVATION 

For further information on using costume pieces for characteriza- 
tion, see Chapter IX. 



PHYSICAL IRRITATION A 

Three or more players. 

Where: a public speaker's platform. Each player is to make a 
speech. During the speech, he has some sort of physical irritation 
which is bothering him but which he cannot remedy because of 
all the people watching him. The irritation might, for example, 
be a tight collar. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: (1) the discomfort; (2) masking all 
attempts to relieve die irritation while continuing with the 
speech. 

EXAMPLE: A scene was set up in which two students were wait- 
ing politely on a lecture platform for a third to finish his speech 

266 



Character 

so they could make theirs. When curtain was called, the first 

student launched into his "speech." His physical irritation was a 

piece of corn caught in his teeth, which he kept trying to loosen 

unobtrusively as he continued his speech. 

One girl took the problem of surreptitiously fixing a snapped 

garter while she had to speak (holding a stocking up). 

The other student had an itching sunburn between her shoulder 

blades. 

EVALUATION 

Did they make taking care of their physical irritation part of 
what they were doing, or did they isolate it? 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Although this exercise often produces very humerous scenes, 
the teacher should stress that it is not being given for its "gag" 
value. 

2. The student who solves the problem will be the one who most 
subtly tends to his irritation. However, the teacher-director 
should not tell the students that he is looking for subtlety. 
Leave this for self-discovery. 

3. This exercise is a great measure in determining the students' 
development. 

4. If players are too overt in "hiding" their physical irritation, 
redo exercise as in HOW OLD AM i? REPEAT where point of 
concentration is held on the physical irritation alone and 
moves the player instead of him trying to manipulate it. 

5. This exercise often brings interesting new character qualities 
to the players, and is useful in conjunction with the formal 



6. Don't confuse a social comment with creating a character. 

PHYSICAL IRRITATION B 

Two players. 

Players portray an encounter where one person is under close 
scrutiny by the other and must cover up an embarrassing blemish. 
EXAMPLES: A is being interviewed for a job by, or having a 
business meeting with, B. A has a spot on his tie, or he has beer on 
his breath, etc, 

267 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



B is a school girl meeting with her counselor. B has a run in her 
stocking, 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: concealing the problem during the in- 
terview. 



NERVOUS HABITS OR TICS 

Two or more players. 

Where, Who, and What are agreed upon. Each player is to 
adopt a nervous habit or a tic. They should choose these from 
actual experience recalling someone they have met who was ac- 
tually afflicted with such a habit. 

Action should be handled just as in PHYSICAL IRRITATION. 
Teacher-director should stress at the outset that the player is 
not to poke fun at this affliction but is to understand it and work 
with it. 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: adopting a nervous habit or tic. 

EVALUATION 

All players agree that people with nervous habits do not want 
them, nor do they necessarily have them at all times. 

Do you think that a nervous habit is caused by something, or 
that it belongs to a person from birth? While we may not know 
the clinical reasons why a person has a nervous habit, let us never 
forget that it is the physical manifestation of some inner action. 

In the case of stuttering, for example: What do you think 
might be causing that? How many of you have ever stuttered? It 
is surprising to see the show of hands. Most people have stuttered 
at one time or another. 

Can anyone remember what caused them to stutter? What 
made it difficult for the words to come out? In almost every in- 
stance the reply is: *1 was afraid.** "I didn't know the answer." 
"Someone scared me." "I was asked to say something too fast." It 
seems, on this level, most stuttering is related to fear or sudden 
shock. 

If we agree, then, that stuttering is the result of fear or shock, 
what does this do to us physically? Have students remember a 
moment of personal fear or shock. Note they almost invariably 

268 



Character 

make a sharp breathing sound and then hold their breath when 
they have remembered something. 

Have students go on stage as refugees from a war zone. Ex- 
plain that when they hear a loud sharp noise, they are to treat it 
as bombs falling. What happened in almost every case of reac- 
tion to the bombs? "We stopped dead," they recalled. "We fell 
to the ground and stiffened out." 

It is obvious to them that fear and shock brought a physical 
tension not only to speech but to their bodies as well. They held 
their breath from head to toe. It well could be that physical man- 
ifestation of this sort in people are moments of past fear retained 
in a present environment. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Whatever the exact cause of an affliction, the student should 
be aware of some personal as well as physical problems of the 
sufferer. The exercise is not to be treated as a bit of comic 
business. 

2. This exercise is useful because it clearly shows a student-actor 
that emotion and the physical expression (character) of that 
emotion are one. 

Developing Character Agility 

The following exercises are obviously valuable for the actor 
in the improvisational theater. They are equally valuable for 
the actor in the formal theater, in that they expedite the search 
for character attitudes. 

CHARACTER AGILITY A 

Full group. 

Teacher-director supplies pencils and paper to the pkyers and 
gives them the following categories, which they write down. Ad- 
ditional categories can be used. Time limit for each. 

1. Animal 

2. Image 

3. Rhythm 

4. Props 

269 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

5. Costume Pieces 

6. Color 

Teacher-director now reads off a list of characters one at a 
time. Players must write down whatever comes to them regard- 
ing each character for each of the categories. Possible characters 
might be: 

Professor School Teacher 

Old Man Astronaut 

Psychoanalyst Father 

Little Boy Aunt 

Banker Grandmother 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on writing down the first impressions 
that come to mind, under the given categories, for each 
character. 

EXAMPLE 

Character: Professor 

1. Animal: owl 

2. Image: rock 

3. Rhythm: staccato 

4. Prop: pointer 

5. Costume Pieces: muffler, overshoes 

6. Color: purple 



CHARACTER AGILITY B 

Instead of giving a variation of categories, name only one 
specific category. The players must then write as much about 
the character in this one specific category as they can within a 
one-minute time limit 

Or, the teacher-director might supply varied and seemingly 
unrelated categories, which the players must then fill in, also 
within a limited amount of time. 

EXAMPLES: Single category image. 

Varied categories physical details; foods, tastes; background, 

friends. 6 



6 The varied categories can be used as "biography" for a character in a 
formal play. 

270 



Character 

CHARACTER AGILITY C 

Two players. 

Student audience suggests characters (e.g., a spinster school 
teacher and a grocery clerk) for each. Players are given limited 
time to concentrate on their characters. (Have them sit quietly 
as in EXCUBSIONS INTO THE INTUITIVE, p. 191.) When ready (in 
their own time) they move into a Where either agreed on before- 
hand or suggested by audience. 
POINT OF CONCENTRATION: to allow the "random thoughts" to take 

over without intellectual selection. 

EVALUATION 

To players: did you allow random ideas to appear, or did you 
categorize your thoughts? Did your character come to life? Did 
you play the character? 

To audience: was there a difference in the characters between 
random and categorized associations? Did this problem excite the 
actors into new aspects? Were there many body changes? 

CHARACTER AGILITY D 

Teacher-director supplies pencils and paper, gives the image, 
mood, rhythm, etc., and has student-actors quickly write the 
character suggested, 

CHARACTER AGILITY E 7 

Full group. Used as a warm-up game. 

Players sit in a circle with one in the center. The center player 
calls out various character categories while pointing to each 
player in turn as he does so. The center player then stops and 
points to one of the players, giving him a particular category 
and counts to ten as he does so. 

The player must respond before the center player stops count- 
ing. If image or mood or rhythm, color, etc., is used by the center 
player, a specific character must be named. If character is called 
by the center player, then an image must be given by the count 
of ten. 



7 This is played like the game called Beast, Bird or Fish in Neva L. Boyd, 
Handbook of Games (Chicago: H. T. Fitzsimons Co., 1945), p. 101. 

271 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 
POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. See that these exercises do not become an intellectual game, 
a series of cliches for student-actors. Play it frequently, and 
students will soon be getting substance for their characters 
from a far deeper source than is usual. 

2. The agility in spontaneous selection which this exercise de- 
velops in the actor is very important to handling characters as 
presented by suggestions from the audience. 



TRANSFORMATION OF RELATIONSHIP 

Two players. 

Players begin with a relationship (Who) and keep trans- 
forming it into new relationships. As in TRANSFORMATION OF THE 
OBJECT (p. 214), change must not be made through invention or 
association. Players must "let it happen," not meddle. Either 
player may initiate change, and "relationship" may include ani- 
mals, machines, etc. as well as people. 

When players are working on the problem and solving it, 
the spontaneous changes that appear are seemingly endless. 
Some transformations bring dialogue along with them, some are 
silent, Where has great clarity, props instantly exist, and physi- 
calization is strong. 

If players stand around and tell stories, however, change 
comes only through word association, and they are not solving 
the problem and must be stopped. When the problem is under- 
stood, however, extraordinary breakthroughs occur as players 
sense that an endless succession of characters, relationships, and 
ideas exist within them for their use. 

After success with this theater game, bring students back to 
CONTRAPUNTAL ARGUMENT c (transformation of point of view), 
and they will move more readily into transforming a thought. 

Transforming, whether it be of character, object, or idea, 
seems to be essentially what must take place within every scene 
improvisation. It is the excitement and energy of every scene- 
its life process. 

EVALUATION 

To actors: did you invent or let it happen? They will know be- 
272 



Character 

cause they will be fully feeling, at last, the difference betwen in- 
inventing and creating. 

POINTS OF OBSERVATION 

1. Repeat SPACE SUBSTANCE (p. 81) just prior to introducing 
this exercise. 

2. In every case the changing characters and relationships re- 
veal a scene in microcosm before it shifts. 

3. Three or more players can be used if the group is advanced. 

4. In most cases the teacher-director will have to call the exer- 
cise to a halt, for transformations can go on indefinitely. 

5. When this theater game was used for public performances at 
Second City, the audience suggested the first and last char- 
acters. 

6. Any performing group that uses this game should be cau- 
tioned: 'let it happen"; do not imitate old changes or "invent" 
new ones, or the game will "dry up." To strain and plot for 
transformations will kill the goose for a mere handful of 
golden eggs. 



CREATING A STAGE PICTURE 

Any number of players. 

Players agree on Where, Who, and What. Age is decided 
upon. When curtain opens, they should be posed as in a picture. 

All sit on stage in the Where they have decided upon. As in 
HOW OLD AM i? REPEAT they sit quietly with blank mind. When in- 
spiration comes to one of them, he moves into the scene. 

Categories other than age can be decided upon. This is a sort 
of combination of EXCURSIONS INTO THE INTUITIVE and NO MOTION 
put together in a frame. Players are to come back to original 
"picture." 



273 



Children and the Theater 



XIII. Understanding the Child 

Children nine years old and up can follow the steps set up in 
the first part o this handbook with exhilarating results. In fact, 
the non-verbal system of problems and rehearsal was developed 
with and for children. While many of the earlier exercises can be 
altered for the younger student-actor, just as some of the follow- 
ing exercises can be used for the older student, this chapter is 
geared to the particular needs of the six-to-eight-year-olds. Many 
of the special exercises in listening, seeing, and give and take, 
have also been used successfully with the six-to-eight-year-olds 
when given to a well-established group. It is suggested, of course, 
that the Points to Remember from Chapter II be read carefully 
before presenting this material, as well as the section on directing 
the child actor in Chapter XVII. 

For ten or more years, summer workshops were held at the 
Young Actors Company in Hollywood for children from nine to 
fourteen years of age. The program consisted of a total of thirty 
hours per week, plus extra time for those children who wished 
for more activity in the technical aspects of the theater. With 
the exception of active games and folk dancing, every hour was 
spent on theater activity. There was never a moment's lag in in- 
terest. One summer the six-to-eight-year-olds participated in the 
program. They absorbed a good eight hours of work and wanted 

277 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

more. In fact, the combination of the theater games, body work, 
and rehearsal of plays made their eight hours almost too few. 

The Teacher's Attitude 

A child can make an honest and exciting contribution to the 
theater if he is allowed the personal freedom to experience. He 
will understand and accept his responsibility to* the theater com- 
munication; he will involve himself, develop relationships, cre- 
ate reality, and learn to improvise and evolve theatrically valid 
scenes as does his adult counterpart. 

Harold Hillebrand, in his book The Child Actors, propounds 
the question: "Must we suppose that acting by children is a lost 
art, like Venetian glass making?" Mr. Hillebrand has obviously 
seen an average production with child actors. And yet, the unin- 
teresting, precocious, often exhibitionistic level of most children's 
performances does not stem from inability to understand and 
learn theater on the part of the child. Rather, it reveals the ab- 
sence of a method of teaching which presents material to the 
child that will permit him to utilize his own creative potential 
within the medium. 

There are few places outside of his own play where a child 
can contribute to the world in which he finds himself. His world: 
dominated by adults who tell him what to do and when to do it 
benevolent tyrants who dispense gifts to their "good" subjects 
and punishment to their "bad" ones, who are amused at the 
"cleverness" of children and annoyed by their "stupidities." So 
often the child is teeter-tottered between dictatorship and li- 
cense and over-indulgence, and in either case no community 
responsibility is given the child. He deserves and must get equal 
freedom, respect, and responsibility (like the adult actor) in the 
community of the workshop. 

The problem of teaching the child is the same as that of teach- 
ing the adult The difference is one of presentation. The need to 
intellectualize on the part of the teacher-director may well be 
the cause of resistance in work with the younger age groups. We 
must recognize a great difference in life-experiences, and the 
phrasing of questions and introductions to exercises depends on 
this recognition. 

278 



Understanding the Child 

Treating children as equals is not the same as treating them 
as adults; and this fine delineation must be recognized if the 
teacher-director is to successfully guide his group. It is suggested 
that he again read the remarks on approval/disapproval in Chap- 
ter! 

The effects of relaxing adult tyranny are sometimes remark- 
able. A group of boys and girls once did an improvised play in 
which the children lived in a world where adults no longer ex- 
isted. These young actors were tenement boys and girls who be- 
cause of the struggle of their daily lives tended to do much yelling 
and fighting. The unfolding of the scene was quite a revelation. 
Never were boys and girls more charming, more courteous to one 
another. They were gentle and tender, they spoke in soft tones, 
they were concerned with each other's simplest problems they 
loved one another! Watching the scene, one questioned, "Could it 
be that the adult is the enemy of the child after all?" 

If permitted to do so, theater workshop will allow personal 
freedom and equality to flower. For when an individual of any 
age knows that what he is doing is a real contribution and service 
to a project and not imposed authoritarianism pushing him about, 
he is free to release his humanness and make contact with those 
about him. 

It is a thrilling moment, indeed, when the child accepts us, 
the adults, as equals within the activity! 

The Individual And The Group 

The theater experience, like the game, is a group experience 
allowing students of differing abilities to express themselves si- 
multaneously while developing individual skills and creativity 
(see Chapter I). The teacher-director should see to it that each 
individual participates in some facet of the activity at every mo- 
ment, even if this means nothing more than "standing by for cur- 
tain/* It is not only the over-aggressive child who is destructive 
to the group effort; the passive child may be equally harmful, for 
both refuse to give up their egocentricity. Group-work procedures 
should be followed at all times when working with the child-actor 
so as to release spontaneity and thus allow personal freedom of 
individual expression to emerge, 

279 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



The Child Actor's Theater Environment 

The physical environment for this age group should stimulate, 
excite, and inspire. There should be at least two areas of work, 
if possible: a place for games and dance and a place for the 
theater set-up. In the theater area, it is important to have as 
many theatrical props as is possible to collect. On a very simple 
level, this would include a working curtain, a full costume rack, 
a prop shelf, set pieces, or large blocks, some lighting equip- 
ment, a place for sound effects, and of course a section for the 
audience. This should all be scaled to size, so that the children can 
do their own back-stage work. With a little effort and ingenuity, 
almost any room or corner can be fitted up for just such a little 
theater; and even if the results are not suitable for a public per- 
formance, the area will be suitable for workshops. Older chil- 
dren can shape their props and set (Where) out of space as adult 
actors do. 

When working with young children, it is advisable to have one 
or two assistants who can help the teams organize their improvi- 
sations and story-acting, assist in setting up stages, help the chil- 
dren into costumes, and watch for non-participants. These assist- 
ants are not to meddle, however, and tell the children what to 
do; they are simply to assist them in carrying out the group's 
decisions. 



Games 

The playing of games should be prominent in the teaching 
process for children. It is possible for the teacher-director to de- 
rive positive insight into each child actor's attitudes, reality, and 
behavior through this playing. 

The competitive, the insecure, the apprehensive, are all 
quickly revealed, as are those more fortunate ones free of the 
need to do "right." A young girl responded to the early workshops 
with such a degree of apathy that she was thought to be of low 
intelligence. While playing the NUMBERS CHANGE game, however, 
she showed an extraordinary degree of alertness. Her apathy, 
then, was easily recognized for what it really was a protective 
cover for hidden fear. This early discovery helped the teacher- 

280 



Understanding the Child 

director to free the child for the creative experience more readily 
than would have otherwise been possible. 

Carefully selected games also serve as a valuable tool in the 
training for the theater reality for this group. Thome Rosa is not 
only a charming version of Sleeping Beauty in song and move- 
ment but also has definite "characters'* as part of the game. Mul- 
berry Bush, with its daily chores to perform, has the very young 
child actor, doing exactly what the older actors do when working 
on object involvement and sensory problems. As Neva L. Boyd 
writes: "Like good drama, the game eliminates irrelevancies and 
brings events into close sequence in such concentrated and sim- 
plified form as to condense in both time and space the essence of 
a complex and long drawn-out typical life-experience. In this 
way, and because of the varied content of games, the child gets 
both more and different experiences from play than is otherwise 
possible in the process of everyday life." Again, "the vitality of the 
game lies in the creative process of playing it." 

There are sense games and dramatic games, muscle-freeing 
games and intellectual games, and many other game categories 
from which to choose (see Game Books). The teacher-director 
should make a special effort to choose the game pertinent to the 
problem of the moment and avoid the "gag" game, the game with 
no other object than to get a laugh at someone's expense. 

It is also desirable to give diversified activities to child ac- 
tors: rhythms, folk dances, extended movement, etc. All are essen- 
tial in developing self and should be given a definite place in 
the workshop program. If it is not possible to have specialists in 
these fields work with actors, then the teacher himself can work 
with them on the simpler activities in these areas. Any type of 
group participation with movement, rhythm, and sound is help- 
ful ( see Chapter V) . 

Games can be made up out of many of the sensory exercises: 
"What am I listening to?" "What am I looking at?" "What am I 
holding?" "What am I eating?" 

The teacher-director can select and use many seemingly com- 
plicated acting exercises found throughout the handbook by pre- 
senting them in "game" manner. WHO'S KNOCKING? (p. 110) is ex- 
tremely valuable. Combined with KANDOM WALK (p. 221), games 

281 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



were used as part of public performances by the Playmakers at 
Childrens Theater and were most successful. 



Attention And Energy 

There seems to be a definite relationship between the atten- 
tion-span and the energy level of the very young child. Whether 
it be the child who evidences an over-abundance of energy, the 
child with average energy, or the child whose energy level is 
below par, all if given interesting problems to solve will stay 
with an activity for a long period of time. If we think of atten- 
tion-span in terms of the energy level of our group, we will know 
exactly when it is necessary to introduce an activity designed to 
stimulate child actors to new levels of vitality and perception, ex- 
perience and learning. 

Such stimulation may be provided through the simple expe- 
dient of changing areas of activity, having diversified activities, 
bringing in challenging acting exercises, using scenery and cos- 
tume parts and props. To further extend the child actors atten- 
tion-span in the beginning workshop sessions, it might be advis- 
able to divide each session into three sections: games, creative 
movement, and theater. Anything that will heighten awareness 
of the activity, color, music, etc., should be used. In this way, the 
young actors are re-awakened to the theatrical adventure and 
can move more easily away from the dramatic play of their early 
years into the theater experience. 



Dramatic Play 

Like his adult counterpart, the child spends many hours of 
the day in subjective dramatic play. While the adult version usu- 
ally consists of telling stories, day-dreaming, role-playing, wish- 
ful thinking, identifying with TV characters, etc., the child has, 
in addition to these, his pretending and dramatizing of characters 
and events in his experiences from cowboys to parents and 
teachers. 

In workshops with the younger children, moving from dra- 
matic play (subjective) into the stage reality (objective) goes 

282 



Understanding tlw Child 

more slowly than with older students. In most cases, the child 
actors are not yet mature enough to cope with Evaluation in its 
fullest sense; and there is a greater dependency upon the teacher 
a dependency which cannot be broken abruptly. 

By separating dramatic play from, and then bringing it to, 
the theater reality, the young actor learns to differentiate be- 
tween pretend (illusion) and reality within the realm of his own 
world. However, this separation is not implicit in dramatic play. 
Dramatic play and real life are often confused for the young and, 
alas, for many adults as well. 

A good example of the confusion between illusion and reality 
was evidenced in a young boy brought into the actor's workshop. 
Johnny was enrolled in the theater workshop because "he was 
lying too much." At the beginning sessoins, he excited everyone 
with his "acting." Copious tears poured out of him when his stage 
sisters would not take him with them. And when they pushed him 
off stage "out of their room," he was found sobbing uncontrollably 
in the wings because "they wouldnt' let me come along!" If he 
was banished from a scene, even as the Pirate King, he carried his 
rejection with him for a long time afterward. In short, Johnny 
had illusion and reality mixed up. In time, he learned to under- 
stand the difference. He became a frequent participant in the big 
theater shows and reports from home were that he no longer 
"lied." 

All student-actors, young and old alike, must learn that the 
stage is the stage and not an extension of life. It has its own real- 
ity, and the players agree to it and then play it. On the stage 
we can be witches and sea captains, fairies and elephants. Play- 
ing, we can pop up to the moon or live in beautiful castles. 

Improvising a situation on stage has, like the game, its own 
kind of organization. After a group of six- and seven-year-olds ex- 
perienced the fun of playing house on stage, the following discus- 
sion took place. 

Were you playing house or doing a play? "We were doing a 
play." 

What is the difference between playing house in your back- 
yard and playing house here? "You have a stage here." 

Do you call it playing house here? "No, you call it a play." 

What else do you have here besides a stage? "An audience/' 

283 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Why does an audience come to see a play? "They like to it's 
fun/' 

Did you make the playing house you just did fun for an audi- 
ence? "No/' 

Why not? "We didn't share our voices and didn't make it 
more interesting for them." 

What could you do to make it more interesting? "We could be 
naughty or all want to watch TV at the same time or something." 

I'd like to ask you again. Were you playing house just now, 
or were you doing a play about a house? "We were playing 
house." 

Do you think you could go back on stage and instead of play- 
ing house, like in your backyard, do a play about a family in a 
house and show us Where you are and Who you are and What 
you are doing there? "Yes." 

The scene was done again, retaining all the fun of the first 
playing while adding the actors' real effort to "make it more in- 
teresting for the audience." The spontaneity of the backyard 
playing was retained along with the added reality achieved in 
trying to share their experience with their audience. 

Tlie child, too, can learn not to pretend but to "make it real." 
He can learn the theater magic of "pulling a rabbit out of a hat." 
A group of eight-to-eleven-year-olds were questioned as to why 
they needed to make things real for the audience and not pretend. 
"If you pretend, it isn't real, and the audience can't see." 



Natural Acting 

The problem of bringing forth and then retaining a young ac- 
tor's naturaliness within the art form is a challenging one. The 
natural child is not necessarily the natural actor; indeed, the gen- 
erality that "children are natural actors" is equally true or false 
as it is for the older actor. In either case, personal freedom to 
move out into the environment and experience it determines 
the extent of "naturalness" to begin with. 

In many instances, unfortunately, whether child or adult, na- 
turalness must be restored. Even young children come to work- 
shop full of already learned mannerisms with physical tensions, 
held muscles, fear of contact, and natural body-grace distorted; 

284 



Understanding the Child 

ego-centricity and exhibitionism have already taken their toll. 
However, because the child's past life span is of fewer years than 
that of the adult and because he is, after all, a child, the break- 
through to his "original free state'' comes about more quickly. 

Again, the actor on stage must create reality. He must have 
energy, must communicate to an audience, be able to develop 
character and relate to fellow actors, have a sense of pace and 
timing, etc. 

Although, we may be highly successful in restoring and/or 
keeping the student-actor "natural" we may find that this is not 
enough. It does not follow that naturalness alone presents an in- 
teresting communication from stage to audience. So, we have a 
twofold problem: first, to release the vitality and beauty of the 
individual child and, second, to take this "naturalness* and restruc- 
ture it to meet the demands of the art form (true for the older 
actor also). 

What must be done, then, is to keep the child in spontaneous 
play and transform this playing into communicable stage beha- 
vior. There must be no intrusion of "techniques." As with his 
adult counterpart, the acting problems the student-actor is to 
solve must be presented in such a way that this stage behavior 
comes by itself "from the very core of the child and appears as if 
by accident." 1 As we know, whether child or adult, anyone who 
freely plays, totally involved with solving the workshop prob- 
lem (Point of Concentration) achieves (or keeps) natural spon- 
taneous behavior at the same time he is making the necessary 
heightened theater communication. 



The Fight For Creativity 

If the teacher-director forces set patterns of thinking and be- 
havior (a "right" or "wrong" way of doing things) on his child 
actors, he is restricting them most severely; and both the indi- 
vidual and the art form will suffer. When the child is forced 
into molds, taught by formula, or given a diluted, adult concept 
of theater, his performance can only be static and unpleasant, re- 
lieved only by the personal charm that most very young children 



1 See Workshop Procedures, Chapter IL 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

still possess. If we will remember that rote teaching, formulas, 
and concepts are summaries of another's findings (see the dis- 
cussion of approval/disapproval in Chapter I), our students can 
then grow and unfold in a free atmosphere. 

Today more than ever before we are faced with the need for 
developing creative and original thought in the sciences as well 
as in the arts. Children, who are our future, are talked at so 
much that a great many adult formulations are either lost to them 
entirely or swallowed whole, undigested and unquestioned. Many 
times one hears a newcomer to the theater (as young as six years 
old) say "You mustn't turn your back to the audience." 2 Question- 
ing will reveal that an individual in some position of authority in 
the child's life has told him this. Here, on the very threshold of 
learning, a door is shut and obviously by one who doesn't have 
the faintest idea of what he is saying and is simply passing on 
something he has heard or thinks is so. In how many other areas 
must this go on, hour after hour, day after day, in a child's life? 
It is this type of authoritarian teaching that dulls our children 
and shuts off their centers of inspiration and creativity. Many 
years are wasted until a child becomes an adult, and then he may 
or may not rise above the hurdles that were put In his way dur- 
ing his growing years. 

Creativity is often thought to be merely a less formal way 
of presenting or using the same material, in a more ingenious or 
inventive way perhapsa different arrangement of the same 
blocks. Creativity is not just building or making something, not 
just variations of form. Creativity is an attitude, a way of looking 
at something, a waij of questioning, perhaps a way of life it may 
well be found on paths we have not yet traveled. Creativity is 
curiosity, joy, and communion. It Is process-transformation- 
process. 3 

Discipline Is Involvement 

We are afraid of leaving the bounds of conventional patterns 
of thought and action. We feel more comfortable, more in con- 
trol perhaps, and the thought of a free atmosphere in which free 

2 See EXERCISE FOR BACK, p. 150. 
3 See Chapter IV, 

286 



Understanding the Child 

students abound conjures up a picture of bedlam in our minds. 
Is it possible that we confuse license with freedom? 

Creative freedom does not mean doing away with discipline. 
It is implicit in true creativity that a free person, working in an 
art form, must be highly disciplined. 

Let us examine the whole premise of discipline and ask a few 
questions. Just what do we mean when we speak of this problem 
with children? Do we mean keeping them quiet? Is it wanting 
an order given and carried out? Do some think of it as self-control 
by an individual? Or do we mean conformity? How many hide 
behind the word when they really mean either imposing their 
will upon, or suppression of, another? How many children are 
sent to bed because mother is tired? 

A "good" boy or girl may not be a disciplined child at all. He 
may simply be intent upon getting reward instead of punishment., 
approval instead of disapproval. He seeks survival by appease- 
ment. The so-called "undisciplined" child is seeking survival also; 
he, however, is in rebellion against authoritarianism and restric- 
tions he does not understand, and his energy when not chan- 
neled into creative action often comes out as delinquent or undis- 
ciplined behavior. Again, rebellion often shows itself in a refusal 
to learn the daily lesson, and so we think many of these children 
are not quite "bright." It well may be that our "rebellious ones" 
are the freest, the questioners our most creative children, but 
they are lost to us if their freedom (because of their bewilder- 
ment) becomes a destructive force. 

Many years ago around a settlement-house neighborhood, a 
gang of "bad" boys were bedeviling the neighborhood with their 
stealing and aggressive acts of all kinds. These boys were invited 
to an improvised play done by other neighborhood children 
about keeping alleys clean. After the show, they all promptly ran 
down the alleys and systematically spilled every garbage can 
they found, and in the meantime it was discovered that they 
had also rifled a few purses around the theater. 

A meeting was called of the workshop members (ten to four- 
teen years old) to discuss what had happened. It was from the chil- 
dren that the teacher-director learned two important truths. The 
essence of what the children said was that the "garbage play" 
was a "scolding play," for all its theatrical effects. It was only a 

287 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



"costumed lecture" after all and as such had no reality. It did not 
create audience involvement, without which no insight into the 
problem was possible. At best it said, "Let's all be 'good' little boys 
and girls and keep our alleys clean." Since this group of boys were 
busy being "bad" little boys, they could only act as they did. 

The children went on to say: "If we could get them into the 
theater, not to show them 'crime-doesn't-pay* plays but to have 
them act in the workshops, then they would find out that work- 
shops are more fun than stealing, and they wouldn't have to be 
bad boys anymore." 

Discipline imposed from above simply produces inhibited or 
rebellious action within the student; it is negative, and nothing is 
learned. For when the "cage" is lowered, all is as before and 
sometimes worse. On the other hand, when the problem of dis- 
cipline is not an emotional tug-of-war for position but is freely 
chosen for the sake of the activity, it then becomes responsible 
action-creative action. 4 It takes imagination and dedication to 
be self-disciplined. As in a game, when the dynamics are under- 
stood and not superimposed, the rules are abided by. "It is more 
fun that way." 

If the workshop maintains the game-like structure, the child 
joyously enters the experience and in trying to solve the problem 
of the activity will impose these necessary disciplines upon him- 
self. For any child (if he chooses to play) will become involved 
and abide by the rules (group agreement) and accept the penal- 
ties and restrictions that are placed upon him. As he does so, 
more of his human potential will be released as his social sense 
and individual talents develop. 

Intensity of involvement should be the gage of children's ca- 
pacities and potential, Children with the lowest grades in school 
may be the most creative. Their involvement, importunately, is 
not stimulated by what is at hand. This writer s passion for play 
was so great that she neglected her school work and got through 
school by the skin of her teeth. She did not make the high-school 
drama group, because her grades were too low. 



4 See Approval/Disapproval, Chapter I. 
288 



Understanding the Child 

The Uncertain Child 

The teacher-director will often be confronted with an appre- 
hensive child actor who looks to see what the others are doing 
and follows their lead instead of working on an acting problem 
as an individual member of the group. When this occurs, we 
may wish to stop what the group is doing and have them play 
the MIRROR GAME (p. 60). This will often help the fearful child 
to realize that imitation is not wrong but that it belongs only to 
certain games, not to all. Once the MIRROR GAME has been played, 
the child will find it much easier to break away from imitation of 
others during workshop, especially if reminded that "You're play- 
ing the mirror game now instead of the game we are playing/' 

Another habit of the uncertain child is "cheating" peeking 
during blindfold games, etc. because of his drive to be best. 
For instance, if the game is WHAT AM i KNOCKING ON? (where the 
children are required to keep their eyes closed while guessing 
what is being knocked on), this child will open his eyes to peek 
at the object. When this occurs, the teacher-director need only 
utter a simple, "If you open your eyes, you are playing a differ- 
ent game. We are playing a hearing game, not a seeing game/* In 
this way, without lecture or indictment, the child quickly realizes 
for himself that if he is to "play," it is more fun to play the game 
the whole group plays. Soon his need to be first, best, right, etc, 
is replaced by the fun of playing. 



289 



XIV. Fundamentals for the Child Actor 

Inner Action 

The concept behind Inner action can easily be made clear to 
child actors, but it is best not to introduce it until the children 
have had a good deal of improvisation., story-telling, and even 
some microphone work (see BADIO-TV, p. 197) . Here is an example 
of handling the concept of inner action when the workshop group 
is ready. 

Do you know what your mother is -feeling when you come 
home -from school? If you want to go out and play and you have 
to ask permission, can you tell if your mother is feeling pleasant? 
The smallest child nods, remembering, 

How can you tell? "By the way she looks . , . the way she 
acts." 

Would someone like to go on stage and be a mother who is in 
a pleasant mood? Although young children rarely work on stage 
alone, it is occasionally an excellent experience for them. Choose 
one of the volunteers. 

The young actor chosen goes on stage and becomes the "pleas- 
ant mother." When she has finished, either discuss her presenta- 
tion with the group or have others go up individually and work 
on this single problem. The student audience will pay close atten- 
tion to the child on stage. 

290 



Fundamentals for the Child Actor 

Now have the children sit quietly and think about seeing 
their families. Can you usually tell when someone in your home is 
worried? "Yes." Ask them to show us. 

One child at the Young Actors Company showed her father 
worry by placing her head on her knees and putting her hands 
over her ears in the typical comic-opera worrier position. Later, 
when her mother came to pick her up, the incident was mentioned 
to her. She laughed and said: "I know it seems exaggerated, but 
her father does just that." 

When it is clear that the group understands that people tend 
to show what they feel, then explain the acting problem as 
follows; 

We are going to play what-are-you-thinking-about game 
and you will show us. Each of you will go on stage by yourself. 
You are to be somewhere, waiting for someone. While you are 
waiting, you are thinking about something. When you are through 
thinking, we in the audience will see whether we can guess what 
you were thinking about. You may be waiting for someone who 
is late. You may be alone in a strange neighborhood and slightly 
afraid. You may be waiting for someone who is going to take you 
to a wonderful party. Everyone will pick his inside thought, and 
we will see whether you show us. 

After they have completed their individual thinking and have 
communicated to the audience, then put all the children together, 
in a waiting room of a train station, for example. Here they are to 
work on thinking the same thing they thought about earlier when 
they were alone awhile ago. 

If this work is presented so that the children are able to under- 
stand in terms of their own experience, some interesting inner ac- 
tion will result. Encourage the children to play a game of seeing 
"how people feel inside" outside of class. They will enjoy watch- 
ing family and friends and guessing what they are thinking about. 



Giving Reality To Objects 1 

One afternoon, during an improvisation of a farm, a child 
actor went to the well to draw water, filled her bucket, and car- 



^See Physicalizing the Object, Chapter X. 

291 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

ried it away as easily as if she had not filled it. After the scene, 
it was suggested that everybody take a turn filling the bucket and 
carrying it back. Only one child out of ten showed that the bucket 
was full. 

There was an outside water faucet in the patio of the theater. 
The children took the bucket out there, and each, in turn, filled 
it with real water, walked a few feet, and then emptied it out. 

After all had had their turns, they were asked: Was there any 
difference in the bucket before it was filled with water and after 
it was filled? A thoughtful pause filled the air. Then the youngest 
child, who had stayed on the periphery of the activity until now, 
spoke up and said, "If s heavier when it's full/* This was indeed 
an exciting observation; and they all agreed immediately. 

Why is it necessary for the actor to know that ifs heavier when 
ifsfull? 

Again the same silence* Finally a seven-year-old boy spoke 
up. "Because there is no real water on stage." 

Jes! There's no real water on stage. A well on stage can only 
be made of wood or paper. 

The children then went on stage and played a game called 
IT'S HEAVIER WHEN rr ? s FULL. They set up their Once Upon A 
Time (Where, Who, and What) and "filled" their baskets and 
buckets with milk, apples, and treasures and then staggered 
around the stage under the great weights they had piled up for 
themselves. 

How simply they had learned an important theater truth. 
How many of us have seen adults lay actors and professionals 
alike who sometimes forget that receptacles are Tieavier when 
they're fuIT? This awarenes of creating reality is easily transfer- 
able to other objects. 



The Telephone Prop 

The telephone is probably one of the most delightful and use- 
ful props for child actors. If at all possible, get a real dial phone 
from the telephone company. If not, have a full-sized (not toy- 
sized) phone built 

The telephone is particularly useful with the young actor who 
is slow to respond. The teacher just rings the phone (vocally) 

292 



Fundamentals for the Child Actor 

from wherever he may be sitting. The most active child will make 
a bee-line for the prop. When he or she answers, ask for the child 
who is doing very little. 

Mildred: (answering) Hello! 

Teacher: May I please speak to Edith (the child who has just 
been sitting passively in the scene) ? 

Mildred : Edith, it's for you. 

Edith: (walks to stage phone) Hello (soft voice) . 

Teacher: Hello, hello, is this Edith? 

Edith: (faraway voice) Yes. 

Teacher: Strange, I can't seem to hear you very well. Perhaps 
we have a bad connection. Would you mind speaking 
a little louder? 

Edith: (Full voice.) O.K. 

To give another example, a mother is sitting in her kitchen, 
apron right, waiting for her children to come back from their 
picnic. The children are having their picnic on the full stage. 
The scene has hit an impasse with both mother and children just 
sitting. The teacher-director rings the telephone. 

Mother: Hello. 

Teacher: Why, hello, how are you? 

Mother: Fine. 

Teacher: What are you doing today? 

Mother: I'm waiting for my children. They went on a picnic. 

Teacher: My goodness, aren't they home yet? 

Mother: No, they're not. 

Teacher: It's beginning to get dark, and it's raining outside (the 
light man goes to work) , Don't you think you'd better 
go look for them and bring them home? It's close 
to their bedtime. 



Mother: I certainly better. 



293 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

And the mother is immediately spurred into action as she 
runs to get her children. When they return, ring again (if nec- 
essary). 

Teacher : Hello . Did you get your children home all right? 
Mother: Yes, they're home now. 



Terms To Use 



Complete Or Incomplete Concentration 

Give youngsters the concept of concentration in terms of 
energy. Send someone on stage to lift an imaginary rock or push 
a stalled car. This would be the same thing as Point of Concen- 
tration or focus with the older actors. If their concentration is to 
be complete, they quickly see they must put "all their strength" 
on the stage problem. 



Becoming Audience 

Becoming audience is a phrase used to reinforce concentra- 
tion. 

The child may watch himself on stage, mirroring himself. He 
may be a non-participating spectator to the actions of the other 
actors. He may look out into the house to see whether he has 
teacher's approval. Handle this problem simply: We have a spe- 
cial place for the audience, and if you would rather be there than 
in the play, come down and watch. It's perfectly fine if you want 
to watch, but then you belong in the audience. 

The children will quickly realize that the stage is the place 
for actors and that they cannot be actors and audience at the 
same time. It is important that they understand this separation 
thoroughly, for this is one of the keys to the stage reality. They 
may have to be reminded from time to time through side coach- 
ing: The place for the audience is down here! We go where your 
eyes go! We see what you see! 

294 




Photo by Morton Shapiro 



BANDOM WALK played for children 
at Second City workshop 




Photos by Enrico Sansini 



Progression of ONCE UPON A TIME 
from bare stage to full scene 




Vhotbs by Arthur Gould 



Three scenes from a 
Young Actors Company production 
with costumes by Barbara White 
and sets by Edward Spolin 




Photo by Arthur Gould 



Paul Sands clowning with a "doll" 
at the Young Actors Company 



Fundamentals for the Child Actor 

Rocking the Boat 

"Rocking the boat" encourages self-blocking and is a phrase 
developed to evaluate the stage picture. It is a visualization which 
can be grasped by every child. Simply describe the stage as a 
boat a rowboat or canoe. Now ask the students to think what 
would happen to a boat if everyone sat on one side. Just as the 
boat would become unbalanced and tip, so will the stage picture 
become unbalanced and upset the scene. 

Once this phrase is understood, you have only to call out 
"You're rocking the boat! during work on an acting problem to see 
them spread out into a more interesting stage picture. Without 
losing concentration, they will recognize the need for sharing 
voices, actions, and feelings with every member of the audience. 

When rocking the boat has been discussed, ask students to go 
on stage. First, have them deliberately rock the boat. Begin by 
asking: Do we ever want to rock the boat? When? Have them 
do a scene where they deliberately rock the boat (as in a fire, 
mob scene, etc.). After discussion, have them do another scene, 
this time with the Point of Concentration on avoiding rocking 
the boat. 



Share With The Audience 

This is used in the same way as with the adult group. Have 
actors play directly with the audience, as in a meeting. 

Showing Not Telling 

The problem of showing and not telling can best be intro- 
duced to your child-actors in the evaluation following a scene: 
Did he show us he was playing in the snow, or did he tell us the 
snow was cold? How could he show us that he was the father? 
How could he show that he hurt his finger? Did we see the glass 
in his hand? 

Evaluation 

There is no one as dogmatic as the six- or seven-year-old who 
"knows'* the answer. He is already reflecting and accepting the 

295 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

patterns of the world around him. He is right, and they are wrong! 
It seems almost impossible at first to eradicate these judgmental 
and thus limiting words from the vocabulary of these very young 
children. 

"He's wrong!" a child will say. What do you mean by "wrong"? 

"He didn't do it right." What do you mean by "right"? 

"Like this!" The child then proceeds to demonstrate the "right" 
way to jump rope or eat cereal. But what if Johnny wants to do 
it his own way? "He's wrong." 

Did you see Johnny eat his cereal? "Yes." Why was it wrong? 
"He ate it too fast." 

You mean he didn't eat his cereal the way you eat it? "You 
have to eat cereal slowly." 

Who told you that? "My mother." 

Well, if your mother wants you to eat cereal slowly, that is 
the rule in your house. Maybe the rule in Johnny's house is dif- 
ferent. Did you see him eat his cereal? "Yes." 

If the teacher keeps at it, individual differences are finally ac- 
cepted and the words "right" and "wrong" will give way to: 

"I couldn't see what he was doing." 

"She didn't move like a doll all the time." 

"He didn't share his voice with us." 

"They had no Once Upon A Time. 

"He became audience." 

After the work on stage has been completed by a team of 
players, Evaluation is handled the same as with the older actors. 

To the student audience: was concentration complete or in- 
complete? Did they solve the problem? Did they have a Once 
Upon A Time? 

When student-actors are skillfully questioned, after a while 
they begin to say: "I walked through a wall"; "I became audi- 
ence"; "I didn't share my voice." This sort of questioning and re- 
sponse has many more times the value in developing reality, 
personal awareness, and perception in children than do the lim- 
ited and subjective phrases, "TTiey were good," "They were bad." 

The fallacy in thinking that there are prescribed ways of be- 
havior came home quite forcibly one day. The student-actors did 
a family scene. Mother, father, and grandfather were sitting on a 
couch, having a tea party. The player showed us he was the 

296 



Fundamentals for the Child Actor 

grandfather by occasionally saying "By cracky!" Then in typical 
six-year-old fashion, he would climb up and around the couch 
(made of blocks ) . 

In the Evaluation, Johnny was told that he certainly showed 
us that he was the grandfather. He was then asked by the teacher- 
director if he thought older men climb around the couch that 
way. Johnny was startled to hear that he had. Because of the 
way the questioning was put, Johnny shaped his thinking to 
meet the teacher-director's frame of reference and then and 
there accepted her authority and decided, too, that grandfathers 
do not climb on couches. Suddenly from the audience a young 
voice spoke up. 

"My grandfather does!" 

He does? 

"Sure, every time he's drunk." 

How a teacher-director questions his students during Evalua- 
tion must always be carefully watched, so as not to put his ideas 
or words into the minds and mouths of the students. And while 
it may be true that only one grandfather out of twenty thousand 
will climb around couches as does a six-year-old boy, it is a reality 
that is possible and therefore the student-actor has the right to 
explore it. 



Points To Remember 2 

1. Maintaining the structure of the acting problem and group 
Evaluation does much of the work for the teacher. 

2. Strive constantly to ask the questions during Evaluation that 
will meet the experience levels of the children and stimulate 
their learning. 

3. Avoid trying to make the children fit subjective concepts 
of right or wrong stage behavior. Remember, there need 
not be any set ways of doing anything as long as communica- 
tion lines are clear. 

4. Noise that occurs around the organization and setting up of a 
scene must be understood as order and not disorder. The 
teacher can always hear when the sounds are undisciplined. 



2 See also the section on directing children, p. 368. 

297 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Organizing a scene cannot be done quietly, since the very 
energy and excitement released can only be expressed noisily. 
The children will learn to set up quietly when a curtain is 
used. This discipline will come most naturally to them in 
time. Do not stifle the spirit of play by concern for "order." 

5. Until all the young actors are able to take the initiative in 
the workshop, place the children who are natural catalysts in 
positions where they can help spark the activity. Watch that 
they do not take over, however. In time, each and every 
child will develop leadership ability. 

6. Do not be patronizing to children. Neither expect too much 
nor allow them to get away with too little. 

7. As in a game, theater worshop allows each player to take 
from it according to his own level of development and en- 
courages individual choice, 

8. Self-discipline will develop in students when their involve- 
ment in the activity is complete. 

9. This age group, too, can learn to create a stage reality out of 
a group agreement equal to the adults. 

10, As with tibie older actors, we strive for spontaneity, not in- 
vention, in our students. 

11. Public performance, when children are ready, will raise their 
whole level of understanding and skills. However, do not 
hasten this prematurely. Be certain they have integrated 
their workshop training and will share their play. They 
must understand that the audience is "part of the game" and 
not merely exhibit themselves. For this age, too, can learn to 
handle the tools of the theater with sensitivity and intuitive- 
ness; they can learn to work with a director together with 
their fellow actors and to perform in public showings, unaf- 
fectedly, and be a delight to behold! 

In a play where a doll shop had a prominent role, six- 
year-olds were used as dolls. Some research was done on the 
characters by the young actors. A couple of dolls were 
brought to class, and the children found that they moved 
only at the joints. In movement class, they worked on solv- 
ing the problem of doing everything as dolls. They played 
"doll shop" for weeks prior to rehearsing with the full cast 
of older children (eleven to fifteen). By the time they (the 

298 



Fundamentals for the Child Actor 

children cast as dolls) were brought to rehearsals, they 
seemed like veteran actors. The only thing they had to 
adjust to was working with the older actors. 

Stands were built for the dolls on which the children 
could sit during performance if they so desired. They were 
told that if a pin was sticking them, they should remove it. 
They could brush the hair out of their eyes, sneeze if neces- 
sary, or cough. There was only one Point of Concentration: 
they were to move as dolls no matter what happened. 

Some of the most charming moments of the show thus 
occurred when they were least expected when a nose had to 
be scratched or when a hat fell off. Many adults were amazed 
at the relaxed quality of the children, at their lack of affecta- 
tion and their doll-like movements. They were surprised at 
the "acting" of these "babies." 

The important thing was that these children had the 
full pleasure of performance without anxieties. They kept 
their complete energies on the physical problem of moving 
like dolls, and this Point of Concentration gave them sureness 
and kept them "in character." 

After one performance, the little talking doll (six years 
old) was besieged by children from the audience. Even a 
few adults clustered around her, crooning: "Isn't she dar- 
ling! Isn't she the little actress!" The fuss would have been 
enough to turn the head of many an older person, but the 
little girl merely thanked the group and, turning to an- 
other actor, asked, "Did you think my concentration was 
complete?" 



299 



XV. Workshop for Six-to-Eight- Year-Olds 

Planning The Sessions 

The exercises set down in this chapter are those which are 
slanted directly to the six-to-eight year old. By no means should 
they be considered the only exercises suitable for this age group . 
They appear here for the sake of emphasis. 

As was mentioned earlier, many of the exercises appearing in 
the middle section of the handbook can easily be adapted for 
use to the six-to-eight-year olds. For example, the following 
groups of exercises have been given in six-to-eight-year-old work- 
shops with exciting results: simple involvement exercises (p. 
64); simple sensory exercises (p. 78); broadcasting exercises (p, 
198); technical effects exercises (p. 203). 

The teacher-director must use his own discretion in choosing, 
altering, and presenting suitable exercises. Once the introductory 
ONCE UPON A TIME has been given and absorbed, he will have an 
excellent understanding of students* needs and levels. And armed 
with this knowledge, he should then be able to plan workshop 
sessions most profitably from the wealth of exercises presented 
in the body of this handbook. 

300 



Workshop for Six-to-Eight-J ear-Olds 

First Workshop Session 

Six-to-eight-year-olds should not be given the EXPOSURE EX- 
ERCISE. The formalized Where (see p. 92) is too abstract for this 
age group, since they should be given real physical props, cos- 
tumes, etc. as quickly as possible. 

Accordingly, the Where for six-to-eight-year-olds is called 
ONCE UPON A TIME. It may be done with or without an equipped 
stage. If no real theater is available, just be certain to designate 
from the start which areas in the room are to be used as the 
stage, back stage, wings, and audience. If a real stage is available, 
it is highly desirable to show the child actors around, pointing 
our various items to them. 

The following versions of ONCE UPON A TIME for commencing 
the first workshop session with child actors. One version requires 
no stage facilities. The other allows for stage facilities, and it is 
to be preferred. 



Preliminary Work 

Do you enjoy reading or having stories read to you? "Yes!" 

What do you do while your mother is reading you a story? 
"We listen . . . we hear it." 

What do you hear? "You hear the story". 

What do you mean "you hear the story"? Just what do you 
hear? "You hear what is happening in the story." 

Let's suppose your mother was reading you the story of The 
Three Bears. What do you hear in that story? "You hear about the 
bears and the porridge " 

How do you know you are hearing about the three bears? 
"Because the words tell you you are". 

Now comes the most important question of all: How do you 
know what the words tell you? "You can see." 

What do you see? The words? "No!" With much laughter, 
they tell you, "You see the three bears, of course!" 

Continue the discussion of "seeing" the words. Tell them a 
story: Once upon a time, there was a little boy and a little girl 
and they lived in a bright yellow house on top of a green hiU. 
Every morning a little pink cloud floated by the house and. . * . 

301 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Ask the children what they saw. Keep it a group discussion. 
Every child will see the story in his own personal terms. Have 
them describe the color they visualized for the girl's dress, what 
kind of roof the little house had, etc. Keep up with this discus- 
sion as long as the interest level is high, then go on to the next 
point. 

What is the first thing your mother does when she is going 
to read you a story? "She comes into my bedroom . . . she sits 
down . . . she says, Tor five minutes, dear'. . . " 

Then what does she do? "She reads the story." 

How does she do that? "She reads it from the book!" By now 
the young actors are certain that they have a "silly" teacher who 
doesn't know the simplest things. 

Now, think hard. What is the first thing she does before she 
starts reading, after she has sat down, after she has come into 
the bedroom? "She opens the book." 

Of course! She opens the book! Would it be possible to read 
the story if your mother didnt open the book? "Of course not!" 

In theater, too, we have a story. And, we too must open the 
book before we begin. Only, on stage, we open the curtain. (Cur- 
tain in this case can be lights. Or it can be the mere calling out 
of the phrase "Curtain!" to indicate the beginning of a scene if 
you have no actual curtain. ) 

How does the story usually begin? "Once upon a time, there 
was . . . ." 

Jou mean it starts in a place, somewhere? "Yes." 

Are there usually people in the story? "Yes, people and an- 
imals." 

The people in the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears are 
called characters when we take them on stage. Now, just as your 
mother opens the book and begins with "Once upon a time . . . /' 
we are going to show the bears and the house. Instead of seeing 
them in your head as when you are read to, you are going to see 
them on the stage. 

When your mother reads you a story, does she whisper so you 
cannot hear her? Does she read from another room in the house? 
"Of course not! She reads the story so that the children can hear 
it." 

Because if you couldn't hear it, you couldn't enjoy it. Right? 

302 



Workshop for Six-to~Eight-Y ear-Olds 

When they have expressed their desire to enjoy the story, go on 
with the discussion. They will articulate if the questions are clear 
to them. 

The theater has people who are just like you when you re lis- 
tening to your mother. The theater has an audience. They are our 
guests. The audience wants to enjoy the story they are seeing 
and hearing on stage. And, just as your mother shares with you 
the Once Upon A Time (Where) and the characters (Who) in the 
book and what is happening to them (What), so the actors must 
share the story they are playing on stage with the audience. And 
show them everything: where they are, who they are, and what 
they are doing. 

Does the audience sit and only listen the way you do when 
you hear a story? "No, an audience looks, like watching TV 

Jes, an audience looks at what you are doing and sees the 
characters move around and do things and talk to each other. 
So, the way to help the audience enjoy themselves is to show them 
as much as you can and to share with them everything you do 
on stage. 

The foregoing kind of discussion give the teacher-director an 
opportunity to bring the concepts "share" and "showing" (not 
telling) into the workshop. However, immediate results will not 
be achieved by any means. It will take time before learning to 
share and communicate with an audience becomes organic with 
this age group. 

After completing the initial discussion, go right into ONCE 



ONCE UPON A TIME 

Once Upon A Time, Minimum Equipment 

The first step is to set up the Where, Who, and What. 

WHERE 

Where would you like to be? Students will suggest many 
places, one of which will most likely be a schoolroom. If, how- 
ever, the workshop itself is in a schoolroom program, shift to a 
living-room scene using the same procedure. 

303 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 
WHO 

Who do you want in the schoolroom? For the most part 
teacher and pupils will be suggested, 

WHAT 

What is everyone doing there? One of the suggestions will 
probably be learning arithmetic or reading. What grade do you 
want? Kindergarten, -first, second, high school? 

When the group has selected their grade, have them set up 
the stage. Have appropriate props available. As the teacher and 
perhaps an assistant move the props among them, students should 
be reminded of the boundaries of the stage area (all props must 
be within it). Keep reminding them: You must share your story. 
Do you think the desk in that position will do it? Stop for a group 
conference if necessary. Although at this time the actual audience 
will only be teacher and assistant, keep the actors aware of their 
audience responsibility. 

When the stage is set up, there will be many things missing 
from the schoolroom. Ask your students to close their eyes and 
try to see a schoolroom they are familiar with. Quietly coach 
them to see the floors, the walls, the color of the ceiling. Do not 
intrude on their visualization; simply give them some direction. 

What was in your schoolroom which is missing on stage? "A 
pencil sharpener." How many saw a pencil sharpener? In this 
way can be compiled a whole list of extra objects which the chil- 
dren should then place on the stage, whether actual or created by 
the players. 

It is best that the teacher-director cast the children during 
the first few sessions. In later meetings, they will be able to do 
this themselves. 

When all the props are in place, have the children go on stage. 
Call "Places!" The teacher in the scene will go to her desk and the 
students to theirs. "Curtain!" is now called. 

As this first scene unfolds, voice projection and movement 
will be at a low level, (this is particularly true of five- and six- 
year-olds). Most of the children will sit and stare at the few who 
may be writing on the blackboard. There will be much giggling 
and looking out front. If the young actress playing teacher asks 
one of her students a question, she may or may not get an answer. 

304 



Workshop for Six-to-Eight-H 'ear-Olds 

A few alert children may take over the scene while the others sit 
as audience for the active ones. 

At this point, the teacher-director's assistant has enormous 
value: send her into the play as a definite character (in a school- 
room scene, the principal is a logical activiser). The principal 
comes in to see what is happening. As the principal, she pre- 
sents activity to all the children and sees that it is followed up: 
she can quiet the children who are taking over the situation and 
see that the shyer ones participate. This can all be accomplished 
through the character of the principal. 1 

Principal: Good morning, Miss X. Isn't it a lovely morning? 
(She waits for a reply. If the child who plays the 
teacher responds in a faint, faraway voice, the prin- 
cipal repeats her question.) 

I'm sorry. Miss X, but I didn't hear what you said. 
Don't you think it is a lovely morning? (The chances 
are that this will produce a projected response. If 
it still fails, the assistant takes a different tack. ) 

You know, Miss X, I'm certain the children would 
like to hear what you are saying. Isn't it a lovely 
morning? (The third question will bring a more lively 
tone, if only for that bit of dialogue. Even if the child 
sinks back into herself for the rest of the "play," when- 
ever the "principal" talks to her, she will answer. ) 

Good morning, children. How are all of you this 
morning? 

Pupils: Fine . . . oh, we're fine . . . etc. 

Principal: (to a little girl) And what subjects are you study- 
ing today? 

Girl: (faint voice) Reading. 

Principal: I'm sorry, Mary, but I seem to have something the 
matter with my hearing this morning. Would you 
mind repeating what you just said? 

Girl: (firmer voice) Reading. 

lr rhis same technique is useful when inviting children from the audi- 
ence to work in a scene from SUGGESTIONS BY THE AUDIENCE (p. 222). 

305 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Principal: How nice. (Turns to a boy who has sat without mov- 
ing from the start.) Well, little boy, do you like 
reading? 

Boy: (No answer.) 

Girl: (shouting) I like reading! 

Principal: (to energetic little girl) That's nice. (Back to boy.) 
Would you mind nodding yes if you like reading? 

Boy: (Nods yes.) 

Principal: By the way, what is your name? 

Boy: (in a whisper) Johnny. 

Principal: What a nice name! Now, which one of you students 
would like to lead the group in singing? 

And so it goes until every child has participated in the "play," 
even if that participation is as slight as nodding the head. If die 
assistant can bring forth more action, fine; if not, then be satisfied 
with any bit of response. After a few sessions, many of the chil- 
dren will be able to play the principal and activise the others sim- 
ilarly. In time, all the children will be on their own, needing 
nothing but the problem to spur them on. 

One six-year-old girl had an amazingly natural theater sense 
and quickly integrated all she learned. In fact, her energy on 
stage was so great that it was only with the greatest difficulty 
that she could be subdued to let the others work. If she was the 
mother, she rarely allowed her children to slip in a single word. 
She was told repeatedly: Let all the characters share in the play. 

The problem was brought up during Evaluation. When her 
failure to share was mentioned, the girl replied: "But, if I don't 
do something, everybody just sits, and it isn't interesting." 

How can you help the others? She thought she might tell 
them what to do. 

But how can you "tell them' and still be showing us a "plaif 
instead of telling a story? "I could whisper in their ears.'* 

What could you do that would help the others on stage show 
the audience that they are part of the family? She thought a while 
and said, "I could give them things to do and ask them questions 
they could answer." 

306 



Workshop for Six-to-Eight~Y ear-Olds 

"Would you please take the papers out of your desk and bring 
them over to me?" was a question that occurred to her. Previously 
this child would have gone over and taken the papers herself. 

Do not be surprised at the frequency with which this group 
will repeat a play situation. The schoolroom or the living-room 
scene may be done a dozen times or more. But with each playing, 
something new will be added, and the children will switch parts 
among themselves. Variations on the same scene might include: 
a new student entering the class, the last day of school, parents' 
visiting day, and even schoolrooms in other countries. Weather 
and time can be introduced. Because of students' repeated de- 
light in such "plays," many acting problems can be solved by 
changing the Point of Concentration within the same familiar 
Where. 



Exercises 



ONCE UPON A TIME, FULL EQUIPMENT 

This exercise was first created to meet the problem of giving a 
short-term theater experience to large groups of children such 
as Brownies, Scouts, etc. It's freshness and the excitement it gen- 
erates were such that it was then used with six-to^-eight-year-old 
actors with equal success. It was presented at a public perform- 
ance of the Playmakers, the children's theater at Second City, 
Chicago, where it delighted hundreds of children and adults. 
However, in this case the audience simply called out the props 
they wanted, and the actors on stage produced them. 

The success of this version of ONCE UPON A TIME is completely 
dependent upon an equipped stage. When done effectively, it 
transmits the total theater experience so suddenly and with such 
strong impact that the participating student is pummeled into 
an active role before he can catch his breath. It would well be 
worth a teacher-director's time and effort to get a simple stage 
set-up so as to use this version of ONCE UPON A TIME. 

To save time, it is necessary that the teacher have the Where 
prepared in advance for the first five or six presentations. This 
preparation should consist of seeing that the prop shelf has been 

307 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

appropriately stocked, that the costume rack is hung with entic- 
ing pieces, that recordings are ready in the sound booth, and that 
the lighting board (with dimmers) is working. 

Since a living-room setting is usually the most familiar to 
the actors and is conducive to a large number of stage effects, 
it is excellent for first choice. Because so much will be happen- 
ing to the stage itself for this first session, it is not necessary to 
use costumes. They can be brought in for later sessions. 

Starting the session is simple enough. Ask the actors, What is 
the -first thing you do when you sit down to read a story? When 
they answer, "Open the book," have an assistant open the curtain. 
We see an empty stage. 2 

As they sit looking at the empty stage, ask them to try to visu- 
alize their living rooms. Help them along as they concentrate: 
See the walls. Look at the -furniture. What's on the -floor? Concen- 
trate on colors. 

Tell them that each one of them will be asked to place some- 
thing on stage that is part of a living room. They may choose any- 
thing that belongs in the living room they visualize. And, one 
by one, ask each student what he would like to put in his room. 
When the first actor is asked to go up on stage and get his couch 
or whatever, he seems a bit hesitant, since the stage is empty. 
Tell him to go back stage and see whether he can find his couch. 
All the audience watches with suppressed excitement: what will 
he find back there? 

Assistance is needed here, since the children must know where 
their objects can be found when they go back stage to search for 
them. More advanced students are helpful; and to help is most 
useful for them, since it heightens their own learning. 

If large blocks are among the props, a couch is made quickly; 
if not, substitute something else that will suggest a couch. The 
assistant and the student come out carrying the couch. Where do 
you want it placed? He indicates a spot and, with the assistant, 
places the couch. The student-actors sitting in the audience are 
eager to get into the adventure. The next student might ask for 
"a lamp/' and so it goes down the line. Each student asks for a 
P r P> g es back stage to find it, and then places it on the stage, 

-Some of the material used in the preliminary discussion at the begin- 
ning of this chapter could be used here. 

308 



Workshop for Six-to-Eight-Y ear-Olds 

When a piano is asked for, everyone is aghast at so daring a 
request. This prop is great fun for the scene, and a smaE spinet 
piano that weighs but a few pounds can easily be built as part 
of your equipment (if not a simple stage block will do). 3 Soon 
a radio, a TV set, a bookcase w^th painted books, and window 
frames with neat cottage curtains appear (these can be made 
so that they can be hung on wires stretched across the stage). A 
fireplace is a must; pictures, flowers, bric-a-brac, coffee tables, 
a birdcage in fact, every conceivable possibility for a living room 
should be available. 

While the students are setting up, the teacher and assistants 
move around, helping and suggesting placements that will make 
it a pleasant living room. When it is finished, have the students 
come back into the audience and close the curtains immediately. 
For the sake of the first impact, the back- stage crew will now 
dress the set to help the final effect (such as placing a bulb and 
gelatin in the fireplace, giving area lighting to the lamps, putting 
flowers on mantelpiece, etc.). Now call, "CurtainT 9 

As the curtain slowly opens on the living room, with the fire 
in the fireplace softly glowing, the lamps casting warm lights 
throughout the room, soft music floating through the air, and the 
bird chirping merrily away, there will be a tremendous sigh and 
"oh-h-h-h-h" from the audience. The aesthetic, artistic excitement 
that rises in the student-actors is thrilling to watch. Here is a 
stage that they put together, and they are awed by what they see. 
Each one had a part in creating it! This is the first impact of the 
reality that can be achieved on stage. This is the magic of theater! 

Now the time comes to show how the theater reality is man- 
made, after all. Go on stage and call for work lights. Immediately 
the stage is altered: the music stops playing, the fireplace is cold 
and dead, the lamps are out. Walk to the piano and show that 
it's nothing but wood and cardboard (or a block of wood); pick 
up the lampshade and reveal that bulb and cord are missing; the 
radio is an empty shell; the TV set a piece of cardboard; the fire 
in the fireplace a bulb and some colored gelatin with a few sticks 
of wood. 



3 When ONCE UPON A TIME was done as part of the performances at 
Playmakers, a block 2' x 3'6" was used as the piano. 

309 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

How did the magic work? Move to the piano ( cue the sound 
man with a line such as, "I think 111 practice the piano") . As the 
teacher begins to move his fingers over the keyboard, a lovely 
nocturne drifts out into the audience. Another line of dialogue, 
and then the teacher switches on a "lamp," bringing a brighter 
spot to the stage. And so the teacher moves around the set, light- 
ing lights, turning on the radio to listen to a bit of news, striking 
a match and lighting the fireplace, and even turning on the TV 
where a program is already in progress (a couple of enthusiastic 
young actors from another group might go through a little TV 
show for your enjoyment). Continue until everything has been 
made to work, until the stage is restored to the original magic it 
held when the curtain first opened. 

The audience is entranced. How does it happen that so many 
things that were nothing but cardboard and empty frames 
worked? Some of the answers will be quite amazing and far 
from reality. But soon out of the "mystery" will emerge the real- 
ization that "somebody" was doing it. Who? The technical crew, 
of course! The crew is called on stage so the students can meet 
them. 

Now take all the students back stage and show them where 
the sound comes from, the lighting board, etc. "How does the 
back-stage crew know when to do all the things they must do?" 
We tell them. "But how?" The students learn that "telling them" 
is "cuing" and that unless they keep the back-stage crew aware 
of what they want and when they want it, the props will not 
work for them. 

Have each student go on stage individually and cue his back- 
stage crew for something. He will learn quickly that dialogue 
is tied up with back-stage response and that the back-stage crew 
cannot respond unless they hear what the actor wants. The shyest 
most timid student, eager to get something to work on stage, will 
rise above his fear, and within one session, the teacher will have 
accomplished what might otherwise have taken many weeks to 
achieve. 

During the performance, the actors are always alerted to the 
effects expected and can meet any crisis. In a production with 
six-to-fourteen-year-olds, a howling wind was to precede some 
dialogue relating to the wind. When the time came, no wind. 

310 



Workshop for Six-to-Eight~Y ear-Olds 

The actors on stage kept up a clever run of dialogue, still no 
wind. This continued for a full three to four minutes until the 
sound effect was finally given. After the show, the cast descended 
upon the twelve-year-old sound man What had happened? He 
had been visiting with the prop man and was not standing by for 
his cue. You may be sure that he never left his stand after that! 
And, also important, the audience was never aware that anything 
had gone awry. 

When the students are completely familiar with their stage, it 
is then time to bring life into the setting: Who. 

Who is usually in a living room? This is quickly settled by the 
group: it's simple to understand that mothers and fathers, chil- 
dren, and sometimes guests populate a living room. It is equally 
simple to understand that these people are called characters on 
the stage. 

What are these characters doing in the living room? brings a 
rush of story material. A teacher might be coming to talk to the 
parents, the children might have to practice the piano, etc. 

Should the audience know what the characters are doing? "Of 
course/' 

Why? "So they can enjoy the play." 

Teams are quickly selected. The student audience will watch 
to see if the actors: (1) let the back-stage crew know what they 
need; (2) share what they are doing with the audience. 

And so the workshop experience begins! Within this short 
hour or hour-and-a-half, the students learn the necessity for inter- 
action, relationship, and communication if they are to have fun. 

When the ONCE UPON A TIME without equipment is used, it is 
best to keep children six-to-eight as one group. When they are 
ready and the roles of the audience and actor are more defined, 
then they can be divided into teams. In ONCE UPON A TIME with 
equipment, however, note that breaking up into teams can take 
place from the very first session. As the full group creates the 
ONCE UPON A TIME together, their interest as an audience is held 
as they watch each separate team make different uses of the same 
Where. It is advisable, however, to end every workshop session 
with full group participation. Just as in the early workshops for 
the older actor, ORIENTATION GAME and similar group games are 
used to end each workshop. 

311 



IMPROVISATION FOB THE THEATEB 

When the actors become used to their stage and its conven- 
tions and after a few weeks of using different sets for each session, 
student-actors become capable of setting up their own stages, dis- 
cussing effects with the back-stage crews, and entering into crea- 
tive evaluation of each other's work with all the aplomb of vet- 
eran actors. 

In organizing material for each succeeding session, it is wise 
to make a breakdown of what will be required in each category: 

FOREST SCENE 

Lighting Sound Set Pieces Costumes 

moonlight night sounds cave bearskin 

night morning rocks rabbit's ears 

dawn sounds stream butterfly 

lightning thunder trees wings 

(storm) crashes dog's tail and 

animal roars head 

wind blowing 

Be prepared for anything a student-actor asks for. If the exact 
prop is not on hand, one can be suggested: a cave from arrange- 
ments of blocks or chairs; trees out of curtains wound together 
at various intervals; bushes from parts of actual bushes, with ar- 
tificial flowers tied on; a waterfall out of blue lights on silver 
lame cloth. As workshop goes along, everyone's ingenuity will 
be stimulated to meet the needs of the moment, and spontaneous 
selectivity of appropriate set pieces will take place at a high rate 
of speed. 

STORY-TELLING 

There are books on creative theater for those wishing to pur- 
sue this form further. The following method follows the structure 
of improvisation in which the story-teller and the actors work 
together simultaneously. It is more inventive than spontaneous, 
for all must stay with the "story" as prescribed by the story and 
the story-teller. It is of value, however, to the story-teller, and, 
since each student-actor will have the opportunity to participate 
as story-teller during the workshop program, many benefits are 

312 



Workshop for Six-to-Eight-Y ear-Olds 

to be derived. It gives the embryonic director even as young as 
six to eight the total view of the medium and an understanding 
of the problems of integrating a scene. (See the remarks on 
spontaneity in Chapter I.) 

Unless the group is unusually large, one story-teller a period 
is usually sufficient. The scene should not take more than half 
an hour. Sometimes, after a story-telling period, it is valuable to 
pick out a few points to work on and chose some specific exer- 
cises for the actors to do. 

If the story-teller has organized his material away from the 
workshop, his casting and other preparation should not take too 
long. Moreover, the teacher-director and his assistant will be 
there to keep the activity moving. 

The story-teller relates the story to the actors on stage, and 
they follow his direction. He either picks out a story or makes 
one up. It is wise to assign this task a week in advance. He might 
also draw pictures of his characters, sets, costumes, and props. 
While these, in all probability, coming from six- and eight-year- 
olds, will be most primitive and not too useful for visual reference 
by the actors, the drawing will stimulate the story-teller in organ- 
izing his material. 

Once the story is chosen, the story-teller casts his show and 
shows the drawing to the cast. He picks the stage crew as well 
and assigns back-stage duties (stage manager, sound, lights, 
etc.). He also costumes his show. The stage is set as the story- 
teller wishes, and he directs the stage manager to call "Places !" 

The story-teller takes his place at the side of the stage (or at 
the microphone if there is a sound booth) and begins his Once 
Upon A Time. The actors act out the story as he tells it. Watch 
to see that the story-teller allows freedom of lines and action 
for the cast. 

To avoid having the players merely stand around and par- 
rot the story-teller, caution the story-teller not to give the actors 
set lines or tell them exactly what to do. 

Saying "Then the mother scolded the little boy" will allow 
the actors (mother and son) to say and do what they wish within 
the frame of the story. This may be difficult to impart at first, but 
constant hammering at the point will eventually make story-tell- 
ing classes much more exciting. 

313 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

During a story-telling of Jack and the Beanstalk, the giant was 
a boy of six who sat by most passively while Jack stole all his 
things. The story-teller, wishing to get some activity out of the 
giant, said, "The giant was very angry when he woke up and 
found his eggs gone." The little boy on stage merely opened his 
eyes wider and looked blandly about. This did not satisfy the 
story-teller, so she tried again. "And the giant was very angry, 
and'he jumped up and down/' Our giant tried to do this but with- 
out pleasing the narrator, for she continued, "The giant was real 
angry. He was never so mad before, and he jumped and hollered 
and said all kinds of nasty things." 

Then, to the satisfaction of all present, the six-year-old giant 
roared out, "Goddamnit, who stole my eggs!" 

It is important that during classes the teacher-director or as- 
sistant sit close to the story-teller to aid in keeping the whole 
cast and back-stage crew working. The story-teller can be re- 
minded that so-and-so is not doing anything or that the light man 
has not pulled his switch for some time. 

If a somewhat flexible technical stage is available, delightful 
effects will come from the "technical" department. One story- 
teller said, "It was night, and the wind began to blow and fright- 
ened the little children." The light man (all of seven) promptly 
dimmed down the stage and made a howling sound through the 
microphone, while the actors huddled in fright. 

Story-telling is equally useful for older children and adults. 
With them, actors and story-teller may improvise together (GIVE 
AND TAKE). The story-teller becomes the "guide," relieving the 
players of concern as to where the story is going, helping the 
players explore the emerging beats (EXPLORE AND HEIGHTEN). 

CREATING SCENES WITH COSTUMES 

Two methods may be suggested for creating scenes with cos- 
tumes. Either players agree on Where, Who, and What and then 
pick costume pieces to fit scene; or players pick costume pieces 
at random and then choose Where, Who, and What based on 
their costumes. 

At first, the student-actors will love the idea of costumes and 
will put them on indiscriminately, whether a scene requires them 

314 



Workshop for Six-to-Eight-Y ear-Olds 

or not, odd piece by odd piece. After a few months, however, this 
attitude has gradually changed, and they are choosing only cos- 
tumes that fit their specific scene, 

A typical scene built around costume pieces was done in the 
following manner. The children looked over the rack filled with 
colorful costumes (if costumes are too large, pins and ties will 
make them fit) . 4 One boy picked out a high silk hat and a feath- 
ered cap and hood which had been used for a bird costume in a 
play. Three girls took fancy dresses and crowns from the hat box. 
Another lad took a beard and a tropical helmet. A girl took a mod- 
em dress, hat, and veil. Another girl put on a dog's tail and ears. 
After they had put on their costumes, they were asked 
whether they wished to choose their own characters or to have 
the group choose for them. They elected to choose their own. 
Each stood before the mirror to see what he looked like. 

In this case, the first boy decided quite logically to be a bird, 
and with the silk hat on, he further decided to be a rich bird. The 
three girls became a queen, a princess, and a friend of the prin- 
cess. The beard and helmet naturally created an explorer, and the 
dog ears and tail made a dog. But the last girl, in the modern 
dress, had a problem. What should she be? The boy playing the 
rich bird who had been quite enamored of her had a suggestion: 
she could be a "bird-lover." The girl very coyly agreed. 
Here, then, was the cast for their scene: 

Rich Bird Princess 

Bird-Lover Friend 

Explorer Dog 

Queen 

The scene went as follows : 

The Explorer was in the jungle with his Dog, hunting for rare 
birds. He was in the employ of a lady Bird-Lover who was build- 
ing a collection. The Explorer caught a rare specimen of a Rich 
Bird, brought it back, and the Bird-Lover decided to take it to 
show the Queen, the Princess, and her Friend. The Dog came 
along, too. 

4 Old neckties can be used as belts and make it possible to use any size 
dress or coat by simply pulling up extra length etc. to be held by belt 
Wire coathangers can quickly be bent to form many costume effects. 

315 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



Was something missing from this situation? Perhaps. But both 
the children on stage and the audience loved it. And this sort of 
scene can be done with only partial costumes and small props, all 
of which can be readily collected. 



316 



Formal Theater and 
Improvisational Theater 



XVI. Preparation 



The Director 

This chapter is primarily for the community-theater director 
of the formal play. The director of improvisational theater will 
find that by the time he has passed through the handbook, putting 
on a performance will grow out of the exercises. However, there 
are some pointers in this chapter on directing which might prove 
useful to him. 

The director is the eye and the ear of the audience to come. 
His energies must, at all times, be concentrated on finding deeper 
insights, perspectives for his actors and technical crew which will 
further enrich the theater communication. He must dip into and 
extract from each and everyone, including himself, the last drop 
of juice. 

If he is fortunate enough to have highly gifted and experi- 
enced actors and technicians, his work will be greatly imple- 
mented. However, from the first choice of the play (or selection 
of scene material for improvisational theater) to the approval of 
its lighting plot, what is finally selected is the result of the sen- 
sitivity, awareness level, and good taste of the director himself. 
He is the catalytic agent, seeking to channel the energies of many 
people into one unified action. 

319 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



For the improvisational theater, his part in the theater action 
is to see and select the scene or story as it emerges out of the 
actors' playing (while solving a problem). The director must al- 
ways see the process going on (or set it in motion when the play- 
ers have lost their way) out of which a scene can possibly evolve. 



The Director's Point Of Concentration 

When directing production for performance (formal or im- 
provised play) the teacher-director takes on a role different from 
his role in the workshop. As teacher, he focuses on the individual 
student-actor and what problems to give to help him in experi- 
encing. As director, he focuses on the play and what problems to 
use to bring it to life. (An additional point for the director of 
improvisational theater is what problems to give the actors to find 
scene material. ) Sometimes the roles are totally separate; some- 
times and when necessary, whether in workshops or in rehearsals, 
they work together. 

Rehearsals (playing) require an environment in which both 
actor's and director's intuitive can emerge and work in union, for 
it is only in this way that life can be brought to the director, the 
actor, the play, and the stage. This is why problem-solving tech- 
niques are used for rehearsing the play. They have been experi- 
mented with over the years, especially with children and lay 
actors, and, as in workshop, if the intent of the problem is under- 
stood by the director when presented to the players and if solved 
by them, a vitality and a high level of response both in acting 
and development of scene material is the result. It works! 

This chapter suggests way and means to help the director 
keep his Point of Concentration constantly focused on finding the 
play's reality. He must know what problems to give his players 
so as to have the play grow into a meaningful harmonious, unified 
production. 

Long before casting, the director will have read the play 
through many, many times. He will have digested it and be fa- 
miliar with it and the playwright. He may even have seen it done 
somewhere. 

Then, he must discard his "dream" play and as much of the 
remembered one as possible. (The director of improvisational 

320 



Preparation 

theater will not have this problem in quite the same way, although 
he may have selected scenes that have come up in workshop 
which he wants to explore more fully. This would bring him to 
about this same point with the director of formal plays. ) 

The problem of bridging one's ideal of the play to its actual 
production on the boards is no small task. But, since a production 
is nourished by the skills, creativity, and energies of many, it is 
necessary that the director realize that he cannot push actors, 
and technicans into preconceived patterns and still hope to have 
and alive performance. No solo flights for director or actors. 

If, for instance, the actors are hung up on words, with little if 
any blocking or stage business appearing, the director may decide 
to use GIBBERISH or perhaps EXTENDED MOVEMENT or games to set 
the scene in action. His selection would be dependent upon his 
diagnosis as to what is causing the problem to begin with. If the 
intent of a scene is not clear, BEGIN AND END will sharpen the 
meaning for actor and director alike. For improvisational theater 
needing scene material, PREOCCUPATION, WHAT'S BEYOND? D, EX- 
PLORE AND HEIGHTEN, and other special exercises in this area can 
be selected. 

Out of this playing, then, the play itself, its story, its life, will 
emerge for the director to see. Working this way continues group 
agreement and finding the solution to the stage problems through 
group solving of problems. Nor is the single actor negated, for if 
for any reasoji work on individual character development must 
take place or more understanding of relation to an individual 
role is necessary, there are many exercises to use. 

For the improvisational director, this is the only way he can 
work. The substance of the scene itself must be evolved along 
with everything else, and this is the way it will come about. 

Theme 

The theme is the moving thread that weaves itself into every 
beat of the play or scene. It intertwines and shows itself within 
the simplest gesture of the actor and in the last bit of trimming 
on his costume. It is both the bridge from scene (beat) to scene 
(beat) and the scene (beat) itself. 

In the theater as in all art forms, it is difficult exactly to define 

321 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

theme. Look for it to grow out of the parts of the very play that 
is being done, for within a well-built play or scene the theme 
awaits. As a comet is static unless shot out by the energy that 
propels it, so is the play until it is moved forward by the energy 
extracted from each second of its progression. The source of this 
energy must be found in the objective reality of each scene. This 
will give the play its momentum as each scene is fused into life. 
Paradoxically, the theme gives the play its life and finds its life 
from the play itself. 

The improvisational theater is so structured that its energy 
source is reached at the same time that the scenes evolve, for 
every scene grows from an objective reality (agreement). This is 
why in the improvisational theater a theme can be stated and the 
scenes built around it. 

In simple terms, then, the director should think of theme as 
the thread that links all die separate parts together a means for 
keeping costumes, set design, play, technicians, director and ac- 
tors together, working under one banner. Sometimes, watching, 
listening, it is a single word or phrase that sparks us; sometimes 
it is simply a non-verbal "feeling" that develops. The director 
may find the theme before rehearsals begin, or he may be well 
into rehearsals before it appears. In some cases it never shows it- 
self. The director must be careful, however, not to be rigid about 
finding a theme and in desperation impose one upon the play. 
Such rigidity can produce a dead end rather than an open path 
for all. 

Choosing The Play 

It is difficult to set down a blueprint for choosing a play. 
However, there are a few specific questions which the director 
should ask himself before making his final decision: 

1. Who will my audience be? 

2. How skillful are my actors? 

3. Do I have a technical staff that can handle the effects the 
play will need? 

4. Is it a play I can handle? 

5. Is this merely a costumed lecture ( moralizing ) P 1 

1 See the remarks on involvement as discipline, p. 286. 
322 



6. Will the play respond to my work on it? 

7. Is the play worth doing? 

8. Is the play theatrical? 

9. Will it be a creative experience for all? 

10. Can I and the actors add touches? 

11. WiU it be fun to do? Will it play? 

12. Does it have life (reality)? or is it psycho-drama? 

13. Is it in good taste? 

14. Will it give a fresh experience, provoke individual 
thought for the audience and thereby insight? 

15. Are the parts (beats and/or scenes) within the play con- 
structed so they can be brought back to life? 

In considering a play, the director should think about whether 
each rehearsal period could be organized around an acting prob- 
lem which when solved would stimulate a worthwhile per- 
formance. Break the play (or selected improvised scene) into 
many minute scenes or beats, small parts of the whole, and 
thoroughly absorb them (never losing sight of the whole play). 
Throughout rehearsal periods, observe each beat in action. Con- 
stantly question. 

For the formal play: 

1. How can the playwright's intent be clarified? 

2. Are individual mannerisms getting in the way? 

3. Should the scene be heightened visually with more meaning- 
ful blocking and business, unusual prop or effects? 

4. Are crowd or party scenes handled ineffectually? 

5. Should we play more? 

For the improvised scene or play: 

1. How can the intent of the scene be clarified? 

2. Can richer content be given the scene? 

3. Is the scene contrived? Are the actors ad-libbing, making 
jokes, etc., instead of improvising? 

4. Is it in good taste? 

5. Should we play more? 

From this referral point, then, the director prepares problems 
for the actors to solve. He gives them the problem to play with 
and then takes from the players what they have to give while 

323 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

solving it. The players take what the director has to give back to 
them in the way of bits and pieces, additions of his own which 
he has spontaneously selected while watching the actors work 
on the problem, in order to enrich the scene. 

It is exactly this organic way, this spontaneous selection, be- 
tween people, this give and take from the points of view of 
both the players and the director, that is used during the de- 
velopment of scenes for improvisational theater and that is 
equally useful for the written play. It keeps the integrity of both 
director and actor and gives each his part in sharing the experi- 
ence. It brings out scene material in the improvisational theater. 
For the formal theater it develops total action out of which the 
meaning of the play arrives. 



Seeking The Scene 

One word to the director of improvisational theater in his 
search for scene material for performance. Unless a group has 
been working together for a very long time and understands 
the difference between ad-lib and improvisation, avoid going di- 
rectly for a scene. This will invariably become a "story confer- 
ence" while moving around stage instead of an improvisation. If 
the group is clever, such material may be very topical, ingenious, 
imaginative, even funny and certainly usable for performances; if 
the group is not too clever, the material that will come out of their 
"story conference" will be uninteresting. In either case there will 
not be the rich textured fabric of both character and scene which 
comes out of true improvisation. 

If the director is engaged in a community project specifically 
to dramatize a particular topical or local theme, he should give 
actors a problem and suggest the situation or structure or have 
them work around the theme. Just be certain they do not work 
on the stofy. For instance, if a community wishes to poke a bit 
of fun and decides to use suburbia as the theme, simply have 
players (when setting up a problem) place their Where, Who, 
and What in a situation that might bring a usable scene out, such 
as trying to get baby-sitters, or fighting off door-to-door salesmen, 
or the election of the local alderman. With this, use an acting 

324 



Preparation 

problem that is particularly useful for scene-making as suggested 
in Chapter IX. 

If the director decides, for example, to bring the problem 
OBSTACLE WHERE to the cast and they decide to use a door-to-door 
salesman, a very amusing scene of a housewife trying to get 
something done may easily arrive out of the obstacle problem. 
Keeping the same situation of the salesman, the cast can run it 
through a variety of problems, or they can do the reverse, which 
would be keeping one problem and running it through a variety 
of situations. In either case, players will be working on the prob- 
lem and not the story. It will be in process, not static. The actor 
who works with the set story is forced to ad-lib and cannot im- 
provise; that is exactly why the director is always needed. His 
role, his part in this most democratic of groupings is to select ma- 
terial (whether fragment or play) which emerges from the 
playing, relieving the actors' concern about getting a scene. He 
further helps the players to "keep playing." 

It is the sharing (union), this give and take, of each and 
everyone's excitement, experience, and intuitive energy that pro- 
duces the improvised scene. This is why, after improvisational 
training, even people with little stage experience can produce 
stage-worthy scenes and are never at a loss for appropriate 
material. 2 



Casting 

The method of casting depends on the particular formation 
of the group of people who have come together for the play. Are 
they coming for the first time? Are they experienced or inex- 
perienced? Children or adults? 



2 "As does all improvisational theater, Playmakers requires a^ special 
breed of actors. In this instance they are all students in Second City's acting 
workshops, guided by Viola Spolin. It is often amazing to outsiders that 
these actors develop such skills and spontaneity despite the fact that they 
are not professionals. Their talents at improvisation result directly from 
workshop training .... Lawyers, lab technicians, secretaries, writers, sales- 
men, housewives and children all come to learn about improvisational 
theater .... The workshops teach more than just acting techniques. They 
teach the more vital part of improvisation which is the art of selecting and 
developing scene material/'-Cmcago Scene, March 15, 1962, following a 
Playmakers production. 

325 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

If a play is done paralleling the workshop, it is simple to cast 
directly from the classes. Posing situations that will utilize the 
characters and the problems well in advance of the announcement 
of the play is easy on all concerned; and the student-actors., hav- 
ing no idea they are being cast, will give the director a clear pic- 
ture for observation. 

The try-out is, of course, the more common way of casting. 
It is fiercely competitive, however, and the severe tension does 
not always show people in a good light. Some actors are clever 
at first reading but never move much beyond that; while a poor 
first reader may be discarded although he may be potentially 
superior to the actor chosen. The director must have infinite in- 
sight; for he is, after all, looking not for a finished piece of work 
when he casts but for a tone of voice, a sense of reality, a bodily 
quality that indefinable "something'* which is only sensed ini- 
tially. He must consider the amount of work each person will 
take to develop fully. He may see someone who has the character 
qualities he wants but has so little background or so many set 
patterns and mannerisms that it may not be possible to get what 
is needed during the rehearsal period. 

Another method of casting is to utilize a combination of the 
try-out and the improvisation. This can be done quite successfully 
with new people. It tends to relax the actors; and, in a tension- 
free atmosphere, the director is more likely to see everyone's pos- 
sibilities clearly. Give those trying out a quick verbal resume of 
the scene: the Where, the problem, and a quick run-down of the 
land of character. Then let them improvise it. Or, give a scene 
around a problem which is similar to, but not the same as, the 
play. After the improvised scene, they can then read for the play. 

A fourth method if the group has been together for a time- 
is to run through GIBBERISH (see p. 123). 

In some cases, the director reads the full play to the assem- 
bled group prior to casting. If this is done, the director should 
take care to read with as little character quality as possible, to 
avoid subsequent imitation by the actors. Sometimes scenes are 
read. More often, actors are simply given "sides" to read with 
little if any comment by the director. 

Whatever procedure is chosen, it is best that the director's anx- 
ieties be well concealed. Casting is a tense period for him, for 

326 



Preparation 

much depends on Ms choice. It is certain that the seed of the 
character must exist within his actor when he finally casts a role. 
Casting for improvisational theater is quite different. Many of 
the scenes the group will be doing have evolved out of the group 
playing, for the most part the actors, as in workshop, cast them- 
selves. 



The Acting Side 

Now the play is cast and ready for rehearsals. What about 
scripts? Some directors use full scripts; others prefer "sides," 
which consist of one or two words of the cue and the subsequent 
full speech of the individual actor, usually with stage directions 
typed in. The side can be creatively stimulating and is to be 
preferred. 

It should be typed on 8M x 11 paper and folded horizontally 
so that it may be held easily. The addition of the action cue along 
with the word cue will eliminate much of the problem of slow 
pickups. The action cue is the word or combination of words 
which sets the next actor in motion or alerts him to answer. 

Cue: quiet hear me? 

Line: All right, if you feel that way. 

Cue: Get out Get out! 

Line: I will, and don't expect me back! (Exit) 

In the first cue and speech, "quiet" is the action cue, and "hear 
me" (coming some words later) is the word cue. In the second 
cue and speech, the first "get out" is the action cue, and the sec- 
ond is the word cue. The inner action (bodily response) of the 
actor hearing the lines begins at the action cue; and he is ready 
for action and response when he hears the word cue. 

If "action cue" is not clear to the actors, an explanation should 
be given at the time the sides are introduced: 

Do we begin to answer another person while he is still speak- 
ing, or do we start thinking about our answer after he has fin- 
ished? "While he is speaking." 

The director should carry on a conversation with the actors to 
point up the problem: 

327 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Do we always wait until the other person has stopped speak- 
ing . . . action the actors are already answering . . . or do 
we sometimes break into their conversation? Some have already 
broken into the above speech and have answered, "We don't al- 
ways wait." 

The director should point out how they were able to anticipate 
the outcome of the discussion. He should suggest that they ob- 
serve people as they converse, to determine which are the action 
cues and which are the word cues. Sometimes, of course, both 
cues will be identical ( as in a cry for help ) . 

The acting side prevents an actor from reading the others' 
lines sub-vocally and eliminates any mouthing. Mouthing is a 
common failing in unseasoned actors. They follow the other ac- 
tors' lines by reading them rather than listening to them; and 
very often their lips actually move as the other actors speak. 
This mouthing is a serious mechanical reading habit and is often 
difficult to eradicate. 

Sides prevent sub-vocal readings or mouthing, since the lack 
of a complete script involves the actor from the first moment and 
forces him to be part of what is going on. He must listen and 
watch his fellow actors in order to follow the action and know 
when to come in. Since he is unable to memorize the other actors' 
lines, he is forced to act upon the spoken word. 

Sides are small and can easily be held in one hand. This frees 
the actor to pick up props, make contact, etc. Sides also help 
eliminate some of the problems of mechanical reading, particu- 
larly in children. It is possible this is true because the sides can- 
not be clutched in both hands, a position which may be associ- 
ated with schoolroom reading. 

Only stage directions which lead to action or dialogue (en- 
trances, exits, etc.) should be included on the sides. Even if the 
director feels a security in keeping them, it is best to avoid many 
of the playwright's directions (such as "speaks happily," "heaves 
a heart-rending sigh," or "winks knowingly"). The director should 
let the physical actions and facial expressions come from the 
actors' own inner action and from the dialogue itself. There will 
be plenty of opportunity in the second section of rehearsal, when 
actors are free of all restrictions, for the director to bring in the 
playwright's stage directions to further the action. 

328 



XVII. Rehearsal and Performance 



Organizing The Rehearsal Time 

The over-all rehearsal schedule can be broken down into three 
sections. Briefly, the first section is for warming up the actors 
and the director, for laying the groundwork in relationships and 
attitudes to the play and to each other. The second section is the 
spontaneous, creative period the digging sessions, where all ener- 
gies are channeled toward full artistic potential. The third section 
is for polishing and integrating all production facets into a*unity. 

The amount of time spent in rehearsal depends upon the 
actors' availability. Professional actors, of course, have no other 
commitments. But with lay actors in community theater groups, 
the opposite is true; and the number of hours they have free to 
rehearse is limited. 

To rehearse a show within these limited hours becomes a real 
problem. But by utilizing the three rehearsal sections and by ex- 
tending the over-all rehearsal schedule over a two- or three- 
month period, the director will have a good picture of where he 
is going. When the daily hours of rehearsal are limited, this long 
time-span between casting and showtime is uniquely valuable; 
for it is in this period that seasoning takes place. 

Not one minute of rehearsal should be wasted. The schedule 
should be carefully planned to be certain that every actor present 
is working at every possible moment. It is advisable to think in 

329 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

terms of two kinds of time: clock-time and energy-time. Energy- 
time is the more valuable, for the director can get as much from 
his actors in two hours of inspired, excited rehearsal as he can in 
six hours of boredom and fatigue. 

While it is unavoidable that all actors be present at run- 
throughs, it is wise not to keep them around at other times just 
on the chance that they may be needed. Some directors are more 
secure having the actors at their beck and call, and some feel that 
the actors should be around to see where the play is going; but 
proper organization of rehearsals will give the director a very 
good picture of where he is at every moment without inconven- 
iencing his actors. The psychological as well as the obvious bene- 
fits of such careful scheduling are considerable. The actors are 
always fresh, always excited and eager to work. They are pleased 
by the consideration shown them and respond, in return, with 
maximum results. 

Whether it is a vignette, a one-act play, or a three-act play 
whether the clock-time is eight hours or sixty the rehearsal time 
can be figured by noting what must be covered in each session. 
If the group meets only three times a week and each session can 
have only a maximum of two hours, the director must schedule 
himself accordingly. When the time arrives for costume parades, 
dress rehearsal, etc., he will, of course, have to find extra hours 
for these time-consuming activities. 



Atmosphere During Rehearsals 

If the rehearsal period is one of tensions, anxieties, competi- 
tiveness, and bad temper, this will be absorbed by the actors 
along with their parts and will be a shadow over the finished 
work. If, on the other hand, the atmosphere is relaxed, social, 
and joyous with the excitement of the work at hand and the an- 
ticipation of the show to come, this too will be evident in the 
final production. A nuance, perhaps, but an important one; for 
when actors are free and enjoying their roles, then the audience 
is relaxed, and an extra note of pleasure is added to their viewing. 

Lay actors often come to rehearsals at a point where energy 
levels are low: after school, tired from a day's work or from put- 
ting the children to bed, etc. Outside problems may be carried 

330 



Rehearsal and Performance 

into the rehearsal, whether they be a child's poor report card or 
an adult's quarrel with the boss. In either case, making their tran- 
sition from one place to another a pleasant one is well worth 
the trouble. A refreshment break will often enhance the social 
aspect of rehearsal and also* relieve fatigue. 

The Director's Ability To Inspire 

"Inspiration" is often a vague term. We know, however, that 
behind it something exists and that, in the case of a director, 
its presence or absence can be readily noted by observing those 
around him. 

The most apparent characteristic of inspiration could prob- 
ably be termed "reaching beyond one's self" or deeper "into one's 
self." People who are inspired may pace the floor or talk ani- 
matedly. Eyes sparkle, ideas pour forth, and the body releases its 
holds. If many people are inspired simultaneously, then the very 
air around them seems to sparkle and dance with excitement. 

Inspiration in the theater situation can best be described as 
energy. "Energy" does not mean leaping wildly about the stage 
(although this might help at times). It is the intensity of the 
director's attention to what the actors are doing, plus the use of 
every skill he can call up, which subsequently prods the actors 
into extending themselves, into "reaching beyond." Sometimes the 
director must literally pour this energy into his cast as he might 
pour water into a glass; and, in most instances, the cast will re- 
spond and will be able to pour it right back into him. An actor 
once made the comment that "playing to you is like playing to a 
full house at the Opera!" This is the kind of energy the director 
must give his actors. 

Never for one moment should the director show tiredness or 
boredom, for a director who loses his energy is doing more harm 
to his play than can be imagined. If this tiredness should occur, it 
is far better to stop rehearsals completely and have the stage 
manager take over for a sit-down line rehearsal, or go into voice 
exercises or an improvisation, than it is to continue with a life- 
less rehearsal. 

An actor without energy is worthless, for he is without contact 
with what he is doing. The same holds true for the director. The 

331 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

director must not make "inspiring the actors" a mere phrase. In- 
deed, when a lag in rehearsals does occur, he would do well to 
look to himself. 

Am I giving enough energy? Am I staying overlong on me- 
chanics? Which actors need individual attention? Do they need 
more improvisations? Are rehearsals too drawn out? Ana I nag- 
ging at the actors? Am I attacking the actors? Are the actors 
working at odds with me? Is the problem physical or psycholog- 
ical? Am I just being a traffic manager? Is it necessary to stimulate 
more spontaneity? Am I using the actors as puppets? Am I over- 
anxious? Am I asking them for more than they can give me at 
this time? 

If the director searches for and handles his problem honestly, 
he will solve it. The only initiative he needs is the knowledge 
that when necessary his ingenuity, spontaneity, and energy can 
give the inspiration to his actors. 



Blocking The Show 

Natural-looking blocking is possible with any age group or 
experience level. Neither the child actor nor the lay actor need 
move around the stage awkwardly, clinging to props and furni- 
ture, spreading fear and discomfort through the audience. Exer- 
cises in non-directional blocking should be given the cast if they 
have not had workshop training (see Chapter VI) . 

As long as the lay actor is constantly directed in the mechan- 
ics of stage movement and does not understand that stage move- 
ment can only grow out of involvement and relationships, he can, 
at best, only remember the conventions and will therefore be un- 
able to move naturally. 

To test this theory, the following experiment was carried out 
by actors with little or no theater experience and only minimal 
workshop training. They were given two different scenes. 

For the first scene, the actors were given full scripts which 
contained the lines for all the characters plus the stage business 
and blocking as set down by the playwright. During the first re- 
hearsal, they were constantly stopped for blocking by the di- 
rector. Then they were asked to take their lines home and mem- 
orize them. 

332 



Rehearsal and Performance 

For the second scene, the same actors were given acting sides 
only. The action cues and word cues of the other actors were all 
they had to work with. There were no stage directions given. 
During the first rehearsal, they were occasionally coached by the 
director to share the stage picture. They did not take their lines 
home to memorize. 

At the next rehearsal, the difference was remarkable. During 
the first scene, set rigidly from the outside, the actors neither saw 
their stage nor heard their fellow actors as they struggled to re- 
member cues, lines, and stage directions. Their concentration was 
so intent upon remembering, and their fears of not performing 
well produced such physical tensions, that they were rigid. Their 
bodies could not move freely. The stage movements of these un- 
skilled actors under such imposed conditions could only be stiff 
and awkward what is commonly called "amateurish/ 7 

The second scene, though more complicated in its demands, 
did not trouble the actors; for, intent upon each other and with 
nothing to remember (no performing) other than "sharing," they 
were free to solve the problems that came up during the actual 
rehearsal. This experience was similar to the improvisation, where 
the problem must be solved during the playing of the scene and 
not away from it. It is in this way that actors achieve spontaneity. 

In another experiment, lay actors with many months of work- 
shop training behind them were given the full script (as in the 
first scene with the new actors). In their case, they were able to 
take the directions given by the playwright and the director and 
translate them into the necessary stage relationships. But the lay 
actor who in play after play is directed rigidly, step by step, with 
every movement plotted for him, cannot hope to discover far 
himself the natural stage movements (blocking) required. The 
fear and tensions that were part of the first rehearsals and all sub- 
sequent plays have been memorized along with his lines and 
stage directions and have become a part of his work and keeps 
him in the past (memorization) other than the present (process). 

The director who wraps his actors up in yards of imposed 
movement and inflections until they cannot walk is the same di- 
rector who places the burden of "stupidity" or "no talent" on 
them when he finds they cannot function on their own. He be- 
moans their inability to loose the ties that bind them, but it is he, 

333 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



in reality, who has secured the knots. Rigid actors are often the 
product of a rigid director. 



Motivation In Blocking 

Motivation is simply a reason for doing something. When- 
ever it becomes necessary to prescribe an exact movement or 
manner to an actor, ask him to explain in his own terms why it 
was necessary. He will be doing it automatically in time. 

Why did you go upstage just then? "Because you told me to." 
Do you want the audience to know that you were told? "No." 
Why do you think you were directed to go upstage? "I went 
upstage to wait for Tom to enter." 

Why couldnt you wait for him where you were? "I wasn't 
part of the scene going on at the moment. I have to be out of 
the scene, but I can't leave the stage." 

What can you do standing where you are, out of the scene, 
and still be part of the stage picture? "I'll put my Point of Concen- 
tration on listening for Tom to come in." 



Stage Business 

It must be realized that the most skilled director or actor can- 
not always intellectually find interesting stage business. The di- 
rector himself must often stimulate stage business when neither 
the actor nor the script are helpful. There are many ways to ac- 
complish this. Sometimes the director will receive inspiration 
from his actors at the moment it becomes necessary and will then 
spontaneously select from this what is appropriate for the actor 
and scene. Using the acting exercises (see Time Chart, p. 364) 
will bring up more business than the director or actor could find 
in many hours of work on the script. 

Both the director and the actor must understand that stage 
business is not just a random activity to keep actors occupied. 
Like blocking, it should be interesting and non-obtrusive and 
should appear spontaneous. 

334 



Rehearsal and Performance 

General Improvisations Around The Play 

In the first rehearsal section, keep all improvisations close to 
the Where and the problem of the actual play; but in the second 
section, when it becomes necessary to provoke the actor beyond 
the exact lines and to bring a greater reality to relationships, gen- 
eral improvisation is most helpful. General improvisations will 
seem to have no direct relation to the written play. They are pre- 
sented, however, to give the actor insight into the character he 
is playing. 

In a production of The Emperor's New Clothes, establishing 
the relationship between the minister (who was the villain, brow- 
beating and cheating the weavers) and the weavers became a 
problem. It was solved by stopping rehearsals and doing an im- 
provisation around Nazis coming to a village during the war. 
The weavers took the parts of villagers; and die minister and his 
entourage played the Nazi soldiers. The Nazis marched in, bil- 
leted themselves, herded people together, established authority, 
and used physical violence against those who protested. The vil- 
lagers wept, fought, and shouted. All the emotional conflicts 
necessary for the play they were working on came forth and were 
heightened. It was never necessary to rehearse these relationships 
again in this play by Charlotte Chorpenning. 

Once the quality needed for a scene is captured, it remains 
(with rare exceptions). In the foregoing example, the reality of 
the Nazi scene had to be shaped into the structure of the play; 
but the intensity was never lost. Audiences were moved by the 
strength of these scenes and were astonished that "mere chil- 
dren" (who were playing the roles) could give such amazing por- 
trayals. 

General improvisations often give actors an insight beyond 
their words by helping them to "see the word'* and achieve a 
reality for the scene. In effect, they resemble WHAT'S BEYOND for 
improvisational theater. Sometimes improvisations are not neces- 
sary; but when used, they will invariably enrich the work. 

The Non-Stop Run-Through 

The non-stop run-through is especially valuable to the direc- 
tor with a limited amount of rehearsal time. It is, simply, a com- 

335 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

plete run-through of the play withotit stops of any kind. It should 
be held sacred; under no circumstances should a director break 
in for any reason. Notes for spot rehearsals, pointers for individual 
actors, and places in the individual acts that need more work can 
all be jotted down by the director and cleaned up at a later 
rehearsal. 

These non-stop run-throughs strengthen the whole basic 
structure of the production, for the flow and continuity that they 
generate gives the actors a sense of the movement and rhythm of 
the total play which can only help them with the details of their 
scenes. 

The mechanical problems which the director has in getting 
his cast and play together during the first rehearsal section are 
so time consuming that a non-stop run-through would be impos- 
sible during this time. Indeed, setting just one act of a three-act 
play usually takes most of the daily rehearsal period at this early 
stage. But in the second rehearsal section, when blocking, rela- 
tionships, character, motivation, etc., have already been roughed 
in, the non-stop run-through should be scheduled as often as 
possible. 



The Relaxed Rehearsal 1 

The Relaxed Rehearsal, falling within the second rehearsal 
section, gives perspective to the actors. By this time-, they should 
be off their lines. The actors lie on the floor, shut their eyes, and 
breathe slowly with strong accent on the exhale. The director 
walks around from time to time, lifting a foot or a hand to make 
sure muscular release is complete. 

The actors then go through the lines of the play as they lie 
there with their eyes closed. They are to concentrate on visualiz- 
ing the stage, the persons with them, and themselves in the scenes. 

The director should continue to insist on complete release. 
The actors' voices should be quiet and almost sleepy. In spite of 
the past work, old reading patterns and anxieties will often show 
up in rehearsal, particularly on a first play. Actors might be tense 



1 VERBALIZING THE WHERE, p. 128, could be combined with Relaxed 
Rehearsal. 

336 



Rehearsal and Performance 

and worried about the mechanics of their action, memorization, 
cues, movement, etc. This relaxed rehearsal, coupled with the vis- 
ualization of the stage, usually dissipates that sort of fear. 

During the relaxed rehearsal, the director should quietly re- 
mind the actors that they are not to mouth the other actors' words 
but must try to hear them. They must concentrate intensely on 
seeing the stage in their own minds. The director quietly asks 
them what colors they are seeing and how far away the other ac- 
tors seem. Perhaps he can even give them the image or a stereo- 
scopic camera. They should try to see the stage in full dimension, 
color, and movement, to be hyper-conscious of everything that 
takes place. 

If properly handled and prepared for, this time will be en- 
joyable to all. The actors will be able to extract bits and pieces 
from their former work and add them to their conceptions of 
their roles. The last vestiges of anxiety will usually disappear; 
and this still weeks before the opening! 

Spot Rehearsals 

As a rule, it is best to schedule spot rehearsals in the third 
section, when the play has definite shape and flow. The spot re- 
hearsal is utilized to give special time to working over a scene 
which has been troubling the director and/or the actors and 
which has not developed within the general rehearsals. It might 
be a simple entrance or an involved emotional scene. It might be 
a problem of achieving a more effective mob scene or helping a 
single actor to underline and heighten a long speech. In irnprov- 
isational theater, playing a problem is often the way to evolve 
a scene. 

This type of rehearsal will often intensify a scene which has 
previously been weak. Spot rehearsals pull the actor and the 
director away from the generality of the over-all play and focus 
on the minute details of a scene. They create quiet concentration 
and an intimacy between the actor and director which result in 
deeper insights for both. While the director may find himself 
spending hours on a scene that takes but a few moments on stage, 
such intensive work on these selected bits and pieces enriches the 
actor's role and brings added depth to the total play. 

337 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Seasoning The Actor 

We speak of an actor as being "seasoned" when lie stands in 
good relationship to his part, the play, and the other actors; when 
he has ease of movement and flow of speech; and, above all, 
when he is aware of his audience responsibility. 

One of the most common weaknesses of the lay theater is the 
awkward, rough level of performance given by most of its actors. 
While much of this roughness can be attributed to inadequate 
experience and training, other factors are also involved. 

How often are most lay actors on stage? Their work, for the 
most part, is directed toward one date one productionand 
when that moment has passed, the experience ends. This abrupt 
breakdown in group expression thwarts creativity just when it 
should be blossoming forth. It stops the growth, the seasoning 
process. 

For the group interested in developing a repertory company, 
the seasoning that takes place during performance is especially 
valuable. But, between the problems of rehearsal time and the 
technical and mechanical difficulties which most community the- 
aters face, there is little opportunity for gaining insights into the 
play and accomplishing the desired seasoning. 

No director can expect to get fully seasoned actors in a short 
period of time. However, the following suggestions, if carried out, 
will round off many of the rough, uneven edges : 

1. Plan a long time-span for rehearsing. 

2. Use acting exercises during rehearsals. 

3. Do not allow actors to take their lines home too early. 

4. Use non-directional blocking whenever possible. 

5. Create a tension-free pleasurable atmosphere during re- 
hearsals. 

6. Bring in costume pieces and props early in the rehearsals 
to assure ease and comfort at the time of performance. 

7. Work to have actors meet every crisis and adjust to sud- 
den changes. 

8. Break dependency upon words. 

9. Have a weekly run-through of the full show throughout 
the second rehearsal section. 

10. Schedule as many performances as possible; show to 

338 



Rehearsal and Performance 

many different audiences; show in other places, if pos- 
sible. 



Memorization 

In community theater, memorizing lines is usually considered 
the most important single factor in working on a role in a play. 
In truth, it is only one of many factors in rehearsing a play and 
must be handled carefully to keep it from becoming a serious 
stumbling block to the actor. For those trained in improvisational 
techniques, memorization is not a boogey-man! 

The director should not allow his actors to take their sides 
home after rehearsal. This may be confusing to them, for many 
feel that line-memorization should be done immediately and 
gotten out of the way so that the actual direction can begin. 
However, it is important to realize that dialogue should grow 
out of the involvement and relationships between players; and 
premature memorization creates rigid patterns of speech and 
manner which are often very difficult (and sometimes impos- 
sible) to change. 

The director should stop to think just who may be waiting 
in the home to "help." What well-meaning friend or relative who 
fancies himself a good judge of talent and cannot resist the chance 
to find the "right" way for the actor? And how many mirrors re- 
flect the image of the actor busily emoting in front of them as he 
learns his lines? The time between rehearsals should be a fallow 
period as far as the play is concerned it should lie quietly. 

Memorizing the lines too early brings many anxieties; for the 
fear of forgetting them is great. These anxieties remain as a 
shadow over every performance. If for some reason early memor- 
ization is unavoidable, the director should show his actors how 
to accomplish it in a relaxed manner. 2 

Actors may feel a bit concerned when they are not allowed 
to take their scripts or sides home during the early rehearsals; 
for even the youngest actor has tied up working on a part with 
learning words (memorization). Because of this, they are often 



2 See p. 370 points 5 and 6 in Removing Amateur Qualities, Chapter 
XVIIL 

339 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

quite fearful that they may not be able to memorize in time. It 
is the director's job to reassure them. 

All the elements of production should be organically memor- 
ized simultaneously. It is only during rehearsals with the cast that 
relationships are worked out and understood. It is during re- 
hearsals that the actor frees himself from words he is seeking 
to memorize. When this freedom becomes evident, then it is safe 
to let him take his lines home. For when the director sees that 
his actors are integrated and relating to all the aspects of the 
theater communication, then are they ready to memorize in fact, 
for most of them the job has akeady been done. They will find 
that they need only to go over a difficult speech here and there. 
In fact, sometimes all that is needed is to take the sides from 
their hands during rehearsals; and, much to their surprise, they 
will know their lines! 

If the groundwork has been laid and the Time Chart (p. 364) 
has been followed, the director will probably find all his actors 
off their lines before the start of the second rehearsal section. 
This method of working is particularly valuable for child actors, 
where the fear of reading and of not being able to memorize lines 
becomes a serious obstacle in their work and keeps many of them 
from developing as actors. 

A director from a community theater once visited the Young 
Actors Company at a dress rehearsal. She was surprised to see the 
director down at the mouth because of the usual "dress rehearsal." 
"You should feel elated/' she said. "Your young actors are all off 
their lines!" This is indeed a sad state of affairs when the bogey 
of knowing the lines determines the whole quality of the per- 
formance. 



Reading Lines Naturally 

The student-actor is often quite fearful around words par- 
ticularly the child actor, whose anxiety grows out of his past ex- 
periences with reading. As he struggles to pronounce the words 
"correctly," his discomfort is continuously in the foreground. In 
the unseasoned actor, the inability to read lines naturally is 
often evident. Lines become words "in place of* dialogue a sub- 
stitute for action and relationship between players. 

340 



Rehearsal and Performance 

The first step in helping student-actors to lose this preoccupa- 
tion with the lines is to preoccupy them elsewhere. Avoid any di- 
rect reference to the cause of their anxiety. Give them an acting 
problem that will remove focus from the words and solve the 
matter for them. 

Gibberish, extended movement, dance movement, singing 
dialogue, contact, and postponement of memorizing words are 
all designed to help the actors in this way. If they are to lose their 
fear of line-reading, actors must come to sense that lines grow 
out of dynamic action and involvement. For those who read 
haltingly, give gibberish or ad-lib lines until relationships form. 
It works. Try it! 

Another way to "lose" words is to focus on the shape of the 
words the vowels and consonants independent of meaning, con- 
centrating on the visual appearance of the vowels and conso- 
nants, their physical shape and design as written or printed. In 
a sit-down reading, have the cast concentrate first on only the 
vowels, then on only the consonants. In reading, they are to 
heighten these vowels and consonants in any way they wish- 
sound, body movement, etc. Try to keep the reading at a normal 
pace. Stop at an appropriate time and resume the normal read- 
ing of the lines. Have cast think of words as sound which they 
shape or design into word patterns. 



Timing 3 

As much as he would like to, the actor cannot develop timing 
intellectually. Such skill can only be learned through experienc- 
ing. That is why rigid blocking and the mechanical following of 
directions must be done away with. The actor's sense of timing 
must come from his innermost self. 

Timing is generally believed to exist in only the most seasoned 
actors. However, if "seasoned" is understood to mean that actor 
who has both self-awareness and the ability to attune to the needs 
of the scene, the other actors, and his responsibility to the audi- 
ence, then every student-actor can develop timing to some degree. 

If problems are solved, the cumulative effect of all the acting 



3 See also Timing, Chapter II. 

341 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

exercises in the workshops will develop timing in the actor; for 
each problem insists on really playing, and in this rests selectivity 
and attunement to multiple stimuli. When the actor has devel- 
oped his timing, he will then know when a play is dragging, when 
cues are dropped, and when stage action is not alive in short, 
when his "guests" are not enjoying themselves. 

If actors are without workshop training, try to find the Point 
of Concentration in each separate scene within the written script. 
Then have actors focus on problems exactly as they would in 
workshop. This will send them out into the stage environment and 
help objectify their work, which is the essence of timing, 

Picking Up Cues 

Slow cues cause a serious lag in a scene. If the director is 
still having trouble with slow cue pickups in the third rehearsal 
section, his actors have not completely solved the problem of 
involvement and relationship. Other devices must then be used. 

The director might snap his fingers simultaneously with the 
cues. Shadowing might be used to encourage quicker uptake. Or 
tossing a ball back and forth between actors; the moment the 
ball hits him, the actor must begin speaking. Or, the director 
might have the slower actor deliberately top the other's lines, 
cutting off the last few words. 

The actors should be cautioned that picking up cues does not 
mean faster speech. If a speech has a slow tempo, then tempo 
remains slow, even though the cue itself is picked up rapidly. 

Laughter In Rehearsals 

During the second rehearsal section, actors are usually quite 
free from early tensions, social aspects are high, movements are 
fairly sure, and the actors can begin to have more fun. Fun, how- 
ever, must be understood as the pleasure of working within the 
play and with the other actors. Uncontrolled laughter and wise- 
cracking during rehearsals should be seen by the director for 
what it is. 

When laughter is moderate and enjoyable, it is useful. It 
most often denotes a breakthrough. It will help, not impede the 

342 



Rehearsal and Performance 

work. When it has elements of hysteria in it, however, it will 
prove destructive and must be carefully handled by the director. 
In time, the director will listen to laughter and know what it 
means, much as a mother is able to tell what each separate cry 
of her child means. 

Although actors will assure the director that they "will never 
laugh on stage," he might be permitted a moment of doubt. It 
might help to tell them the Soup Story: 

A wife tried to get her husband to stop making noises when 
he drank soup, since they were soon to have company for dinner. 
"Don't worry," he said. "As long as we're by ourselves, I can make 
all the noise I want. But when company comes, I will drink my 
soup quietly/' 

The next time they had company for dinner, the man was 
very careful not to make noise; and for the first few spoonfuls all 
went well. He did so well, in fact, that he completely relaxed. 
The longer the soup course went on, the more he enjoyed him- 
self; and the more he enjoyed himself, the louder he slurped. To 
the embarrassment of the guests, he ended up making more noise 
than he had before his wife warned him. 

Sometimes, when laughter breaks out among the cast in re- 
hearsal, the director can let them release it by actually helping 
them to laugh and joining in on the joke. However, if the laugh- 
ter is uncontrollable, he should recognize the danger sign, stop 
the scene, and go on to another. 

Young actors and older lay actors will often say, "He makes 
me laugh!" But it is important to point out to them that "he" 
never makes them laugh. It is their own lack of focus, for what- 
ever reason, that causes the trouble. Laughter sometimes is a 
means of pulling away from the stage environment and becoming 
a judging audience. They are playing a role and suddenly see 
their friends instead of the other characters. Or they see them- 
selves doing something, expressing some emotion out of the 
ordinary. 

Laughter is energy; and players can learn that its physical 
impact on the body can be re-channeled into another emotion. 
As in workshop, student-actors learn to "use their laughter." 
Laughter can readily be turned to tears, tantrums, "play" laugh- 
ter, physical action, etc. 

343 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



Growing Stale 

There are two points at which actors may grow stale: one 
is during rehearsals, the other is during a run of performances. 
When this happens, it is a sign of grave danger, for when actors 
become mechanical and lifeless, something has gone wrong. 

Sometimes this is because of a serious weakness in the basic 
structure of the production; at other times, it may be just a 
temporary setback. Sometimes the choice of material is poor, 
and the director finds himself working with such superficiality 
that it responds only slightly to his work. Sometimes actors 
have ceased to "play," and spontaneity and creativity have been 
replaced by the actors simply repeating themselves. Or the 
actors may have lost focus and begun to generalize their en- 
vironment, their relationship (Who), and their settings (Where), 
so that no reality exists for them. Rehearsals, like the play itself, 
should have a growing developmental theme and climax. Stale- 
ness may be a sign that the director has neglected to carefully 
plan his rehearsal time to build maximum inspiration and excite- 
ment for his actors (see the Time Chart, p. 364). 

Several factors may account for the cast going stale during 
rehearsals: 

1. Director has set his play too definitely from the outside, 
giving every movement, every piece of business, every voice in- 
flection to his actors. 

2. Actors have memorized lines and business too early. Char- 
acters, blocking, etc., were set before relationship and involve- 
ment developed. 

3. Actors have been isolated too long from the other aspects 
of production and need a "lift/* The director should bring in a 
handsome set piece, a costume part, or a prop and space this so 
maximum effect will be derived. He should heighten the theat- 
rical atmosphere as he moves to the third rehearsal section. This 
opens up new vistas for the actors and builds greater vitality for 
the production. 

4. Actors need more fun or play. This can be handled through 
re-channeling the director's attitude or by using games. This is 
particularly true of children and lay actors, where it may take 
months of workshop before their involvement with the theater 



344 



Rehearsal and Perfownance 

problems generates enough energy to hold their interest with- 
out outside stimuli. Carefully selected games are excellent for 
any rehearsing group. 

5. Actors with limited backgrounds are certain they have 
reached their goal and achieved characters they want the per- 
formance to begin. Sometimes only one or two actors may be 
having difficulties. It may be that they do not like their parts, 
or they may feel they should have had larger ones. 

Other faults that usually lead to staleness during performance: 

1 . Imitating previous performances . 

2. Seduced by audience reaction. 

3. Never varied performance. (Actors can vary perform- 
ances endlessly, respecting the limitations of the play's structure. ) 

4. Giving "solo performances." 

5. Actors getting lazy and sloppy. 

6. Actors losing detail and generalizing objects and stage 
relationships (Use VERBALIZING THE WHERE, p. 128, when this 
occurs.) 

7. Actors need director's guardianship. 

8. Play needs pickup rehearsals. 

An interesting problem arose with an actor who was playing 
in his first performance. It was at a settlement house; and he 
was a neighborhood man who did a brilliant piece of work 
when he stood up to the villain of the play. After the first per- 
formance he received a thunderous applause. The next perform- 
ance there was no applause. He was perplexed and wanted to 
know what had happened. 

The first time you played, you were really angry, and we all 
knew it. The second show, you were only remembering the ap- 
plause. He thought for a moment, nodded his head, and as he 
rolled up his sleeves and flexed his arms, he said: "Wait till I 
get him tonight!" 



Acting Exercises During Rehearsals 

Interjecting an acting exercise in a rehearsal that is going no- 
where bring refreshment to both the actors and the director. For 
the most part, the director should select the exercises that help 

345 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

solve the problems of the play, as mentioned earlier in this 
chapter. Sometimes, however, exercises independent of the play 
are useful for generating energy in the actors and are an aid in 
the maturing or seasoning process. 

Every early rehearsal should make use of at least one acting 
exercise. The Time Chart (p. 364) suggests many methods for 
doing this; but at best it is only a general plan, and each director 
will learn to add or subtract from it as his individual problems 
appear. 

Gibberish (see p. 120) 

Because gibberish requires total body response to make a 
communication, it provides excellent exercises to use through- 
out the three sections of rehearsal. Gibberish quickly opens up 
the actors and helps the director to see the individual potentials 
of the group. Because it physicalizes the relationships and in- 
volvements, it has extraordinary value in developing spontaneous 
business and blocking and gives many clues for procedure to the 
director. 

If employed early in rehearsals, gibberish produces remark- 
able acceleration in every aspect of production. In an experiment 
with a one-act play that had only eight hours of rehearsal time 
(using actors with limited backgrounds), gibberish was used 
four times, consuming two and one-half hours, or one-fourth 
of the rehearsals. The resulting performance had unusual vitality; 
and the cast handled their play with the ease of experienced 
actors. 

When using gibberish during rehearsals, take the actors who 
have not had workshop training through GIBBERISH EXERCISES 1 
through 4. After that, work on the problem of the play using 
gibberish. A scene that will not "play" in gibberish is a scene 
without reality, therefore without life. Theater communication 
cannot be made through words; the actor must truly show. 

Where (see p. 89) 

Where exercises can be used at the very beginning of re- 
hearsals. During the second sit-down reading of the play, draw 

346 



Rehearsal and 'Performance 

a floorplan of the set (if it is too early for specifics, approximate 
it) and place this in front of the group so that they can refer 
to it. As they are reading, have them think themselves around the 
stage within the set. Ask them to concenrate on colors, on the 
weather, on the style of clothing. (This should only be used by 
actors who have had workshop Where. ) 

Divide the cast into small groups and have them solve Where 
(making physical contact with all the objects on stage). This 
is to be done on an empty stage with only the blackboard for 
referral. The playing may or may not relate to the problem in the 
scene; but the floorplan on the blackboard will be for the play 
they will be doing. 

The SPECIALIZED WHERE (see p. 138), with real props, is very 
valuable and should be given after a few walk-throughs. If the 
play calls for a window to a fire escape, a door to a closet, a door 
to a bathroom, a pull-down bed, a telephone, and a wall safe, 
have the cast (separated into small teams) use exactly these set 
pieces for improvisation. They are to do a scene around them 
independent of the action of the play, although they must take 
similar characters (the old man in the play can be the old man 
in the improvisation, etc.). In specialized Where exercises, they 
must let the set pieces suggest the situation. 

If all or some of the foregoing Where suggestions are used, 
the first walk-around rehearsals with lines will find the actors 
moving quite easily about the stage area. 

Contact (see p. 184) 

We sometimes see plays where actors stayed in their own 
little areas, afraid to touch, look directly at, or listen to each 
other. Strong contact between actors, where a hand really holds 
another's arm or an eye looks into an eye, makes productions 
more alive, more solid. An audience is able to sense when a real 
contact has been made. And the director should remind his ac- 
tors of this throughout rehearsals. 

Contact may be made either through direct physical touch, 
the passing of props, or eye focus. A cast that has not had work- 
shop training can gain much by taking time out to do a scene 
from the play as a contact exercise. 

347 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



Objects To Show Inner Action (see p. 244) 

Exercises in using objects to show inner action are continu- 
ously useful during rehearsal and should be used whenever phys- 
icalization is needed. 



Space Or Extended Movement (see p. 81) 
Using space or extended movement during rehearsals helps 
to integrate the total stage movement. Such exercises break 
the static isolation many actors still cling to in spite of work on 
other acting problems. While especially useful for fantasy, move- 
ment exercises also do much for realistic drawing-room plays. 
Then try the opposite NO MOTION. Exercises in using space 
substance (p. 81) parallel the use of dance or extended move- 
ment and can be applied during rehearsals with satisfactory 
results. 

This type of rehearsal helps players, young and old alike, to 
realize that, like a dancer, an actor is never merely to "wait his 
turn" while working on stage. His whole body, even when still, 
must always be ready to spring into stage action. This gives an 
interesting energy to the stage, and often a choreographed 
quality appears. 



Blind (see p. 171) 

As it did in workshop, the exercise called BLIND will force lis- 
tening and help actors to move firmly within the stage environ- 
ment, as they feel the space around them and develop a sense 
of "each other/' During rehearsals, BLIND is best given to actors 
after they are off lines and are quite f amiliar with their stage. 

Working on a darkened stage can contribute to rehearsals al- 
though of course the director cannot see his actors. It does, how- 
ever, help a director hear his actors and the actors to hear one an- 
other. This is similar to the technique of "listening to your ac- 
tors" discussed next. If it is impractical to move your actors about, 
similar to the relaxed rehearsal, have them just sit on a darkened 
stage reading lines to one another. 

348 



Rehearsal and Performance 

Listening to The Actors 

At various intervals during rehearsal the director should 
turn his back on his actors and listen to them. This listening 
without seeing them in action often points up weaknesses in re- 
lationship, uncovers lack of "seeing the word/' reveals falseness 
of characterization, and shows up "acting." 

In the improvisational theater useless dialogue is quickly 
recognized. 



Seeing The Word (p. 232) 

Exercises in visualizing words as shapes come in handy for 
spot rehearsals. They help to underline and enrich many lines 
and moods. Add inner action to an exercise if sensory awareness 
alone does not work. 

For instance, a student-actor who had a serious problem of 
monotone speech was given the special exercise of describing a 
flood he had witnessed. Coaching him to see color, concentrate 
on motion, sound, etc., had little effect on his speech. But, when 
asked how he felt "inside" when he saw the water, he replied that 
he had a funny feeling in his stomach. The "funny feeling" then 
became the basis for side coaching during his talk, and the 
changes were immediate. As he concentrated on fear of drown- 
ing, animation came into his speech. 

In the case of this young boy, he would have been unable 
to recognize the fact that he had "fear." Asking him for an 
"emotion" would have provoked no response. But asking him 
how he felt "inside" (physically) enabled him to concentrate 
on his physical feeling and made it understandable to him. 



Shadowing (see p. 177) 

Shadowing should not be used until the third, or polishing, 
section. Then the director should get on the stage with his ac- 
tors and follow them around. Prior to doing this, the director 
should explain that they are not to lose their concentration no 
matter what he might do; for if they are amused or disturbed 
by his shadowing, then the point of the action will be lost. 

349 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Shadowing will help the actors to understand their own inner 
action, to visualize, to make contact, to move. It will also give 
the director his actors' point of view and may clarify a few 
things for him. He should talk to the actor he is shadowing (since 
he stays very close to him, he can speak quietly without dis- 
turbing the others) and should pick up the reactions of that 
actor as well as the others: 

Why does he look at you like that? . . . Doesn't that irritate 
you? . . . What right has he to do that? ... Do you think he's 
going to talk to you? . . . What makes him look out the window 
that way? . . . Why dont you force him to look at you? .... 

This gives the actors an extra hurst of energy from the direc- 
tor; in a sense, it exposes them, some weeks before the opening, 
to the most scrutinizing of audience reactions, for shadowing is 
like the closeup of a camera. If they get rattled when being 
shadowed, they are not secure in their parts and need more 
work on spots. 

This particular technique should not be used until the actors 
have been with their roles long enough for some seasoning to 
have taken place. 



Use Of Games 

Like dance or space exercises, games release spontaneity 
and create flow as they remove static body movements and bring 
the actors together physically. Games are especially valuable in 
cleaning up scenes requiring sharp timing. 

A difficult problem arose in a cocktail-party scene where six 
or seven players had to mill around and socialize while surrepti- 
tiously watching for the high-sign from their leader to break 
loose and create bedlam. When the scene was rehearsed, the re- 
sults were static and unspontaneous. The problem was finally 
solved through the game WHO STARTED THE MOTION? (p. 67). 

After WHO STARTED THE MOTION? was played four or five times, 
the cocktail-party scene came off, and the needed "looking with- 
out looking" quality emerged very sharply. The excitement re- 
leased by the game was retained by the players throughout their 
performances. 

350 



Rehearsal and "Performance 

A park scene with passersby crossing and recrossing the stage 
(requiring continuous entering and exiting) created a serious 
problem of timing for the actors. It was impossible to "set*' the 
crosses through cues, since there had to be random crossing but 
never too many at one time. The game OBJECT RELAY solved this 
problem for the actors. 



OBJECT RELAY 4 

Two teams. 

Teams line up side by side. The first player on the team has 
an object in his hand (a rolled-up newspaper, a stick, etc.). The 
first player from each team must run to a goal agreed upon, 
touch it, run back, and hand the object to the next player on 
his team who must, in turn, run, touch the goal, run back, give 
the object to the third player on the team, and so forth until all 
players have finished and a team has won. 

After OBJECT RELAY had been played once, it was repeated, 
but this time the actors walked instead of running to the goal 
and back. This solved the problem on stage for the actors from 
then on; and as one or two exited, the others entered with no lag 
or static. 

The director would do well to have a few good game books 
on hand at all times and to be familiar with their contents for that 
moment when he might be called upon to solve a stage problem 
through the game situation. 

Biographies 

Toward the end of the second period of rehearsal, ask the ac- 
tors for biographies of their characters. It is a device for getting 
them to think of character in dimension and occasionally brings 
some insights. Within this material the director, too, may find 
something that is usable to help the actor when he seems to be 
getting nowhere with his part. 

The biography is everything about the character being played. 



4 Adapted from Neva L. Boyd, Handbook of Games (Chicago: H. T. 
FitzSimons Co., 1945). 

351 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Write out as fully as possible: schooling, parents, grandparents, 
favorite foods, main ambitions, loves, hates, what entertains him, 
how he spends his evenings, etc. Add the reasons which brought 
this character to the immediate stage situation. 

This should not be done until the character is settling into 
the actor. Done too early, it is harmful and creates quite the 
opposite effect, for it keeps the character in "the head" of the 
player. 5 Some biographies may be sketchy, irrelevant, and super- 
ficial. There should be no discussion about them. Simply accept 
them as they are and use them for reference material if and when 
the need arises. In a well-written play, an actor need only do the 
scene, for the character we meet holds his past within him. 

A biography written by a fourteen-year-old girl who was 
playing in a fantasy stated that she and the villain had gone to 
school together as children and that she had loved him very 
much. While logically this would have been impossible in the 
social structure of the play, it gave her relationship with the vil- 
lain another dimension. She was able to give a sense of former 
love for the character she now detested. The audience, of course, 
was never aware of this "story/' but it brought much greater 
depth to her work (When these two actors grew up, they mar- 
ried each other. ) 



Suggestions For The First Rehearsal Section 

1. The director must trust his casting. Great fear will some- 
times arise in the early rehearsals that he has erred in his choice 
of actors. If this is really so, he should re-cast quickly; for his 
attitude will affect everyone. 

2. Without telling the cast, select two actors for barometers: 
one whose response is high and one whose response is low. This 
way you will always know if you are giving too much or too 
little in your rehearsals. 

3. Do not allow actors to keep their eyes glued to sides 
when other actors are reading. Watch for this even at sit-down 



5 Because of tHs, it is avoided in training for improvisational theater, and 
exercises on character agility are used instead. 

352 



Rehearsal and Performance 

readings and remind them to watch the other players and to listen 
to them whenever necessary. 

4. Avoid artificial reading habits from the first moment. Use 
special exercises if necessary. 

5. Handle cue pickups naturally by having the actors work 
on action cues. Do not handle this mechanically. If it becomes 
necessary to work on word cues, wait until the latter part of 
the second or early part of the third rehearsal section. 

6. Avoid setting character, lines, business, or blocking too 
early. A "rough-in" is all that is necessary. There is plenty of 
time. 

7. Details are unimportant in the first period. Do not nag 
the actors. Once the character and relationships are set, it will 
be simple to bring in details. So, the reality of each scene within 
the play must be found. 



Suggestions For The Second Rehearsal Section 

This is the digging period. The actor is now ready for fuller 
utilization of his own creativity. As he brings up actions through 
the exercises or in the reading of the script, the director picks 
them up, enlarges them, and adds something of his own, if nec- 
essary. The play is more or less blocked; and almost everyone 
is completely off lines. Relationships are clear. 

1. The beginning of self-discipline. No chitchat in the 
wings or in the theater. At this time, stage attitudes and stage 
behavior off the stage as well as on are to be established. 

2. If the groundwork has been well laid, the director can move 
directly to stage action with no danger of intruding on the ac- 
tor's creativity or a static quality appearing. He can cajole, shout, 
plead, and give exact steps without developing anxieties or stop- 
ping spontaneity. There will be no danger of his hampering the 
stage work. 

3. Some first-section exercises can be continued here if nec- 
essary. Gibberish exercises are particularly good for digging up 
more stage business. 

4. Director's energy must be high and apparent to the actors. 

5. Watch for signs of growing stale and correct them quickly. 

353 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

6. Work for more heightened characterization. Nuances of 
blocking and business are important to note also. 

7. Spot rehearsals, when done, must be thoroughly pursued, 
going over a scene again and again until full realization, full cli- 
max, is achieved. 

8. Use acting problems from workshop in spot rehearsals 
when needed. 

9. If the full cast can meet only three times weekly, the di- 
rector should be working daily in spot rehearsals. 

10. Director should begin to build scenes one upon the 
other. Each scene has its own beginning and ending and its own 
climax. Every subsequent scene must be above the one before 
it-like a series of steps, each a bit higher than the last-as they 
build to the play's climax. 

11. After the big climax, the subsequent scenes gentle off 
into the end of the play. 

12. Work outdoors whenever possible during this period. 
The need to rise above the outdoor distractions seasons the actors. 

13. Have actors rehearse barefooted and in shorts (climate 
permitting). You can then watch full body actions and tell 
quickly whether an actor is mouthing words or physicalizing 
the stage situation. 

14. Listen to the actors as well as watching them. Turn away 
from the stage and concentrate on dialogue alone. Superficial 
readings, sloppy speech, etc., will then appear very quickly to 
the director's ear. 

15. The director should not allow a sense of urgency to cause 
him to stop run-throughs. Just keep notes on action that can be 
gone over again when the single act or spots are done. Remember, 
there is plenty of time. 

16. If actors seem to be working at odds with the director, 
he would do well to check the over-all theme. Is there one? Are 
the cast and director treading the same path? 

17. Third acts have a way of taking care of themselves. Give 
most of the work and spot rehearsals to the first and second. If 
relationships and characters are well established, the third act 
will need only the resolving of the play. 

18. Some scenes may have to be gone over dozens of times 

354 



Rehearsal and Performance 

to move them smoothly. Others may need very little work other 
than the regular rehearsals. Any scene that has special effects 
must not appear awkward in performance, even if it means hours 
of work. 



Suggestions For The Third Rehearsol Section 

This is the polishing period. The jewel has been cut and eval- 
uated, and now it must be put into its setting. Discipline must 
be at its highest. Lateness to rehearsals and failure to read the 
call-board or check in with the stage manager, must be sternly 
dealt with. The director is preparing his actors for a performance 
in which a late actor or a misplaced prop could throw the whole 
show. 

The organization of back-stage work must begin as early as 
work on the stage; and the rules must be observed. In most 
little theaters, the technical crews are also composed of lay peo- 
ple. Prop men, sound men, and lighting men must all be just 
as attentive to time and responsibility as the actors; and their 
responsibility must be built up rehearsal after rehearsal. Any 
ten-year-old child can handle the light cues efficiently if respect 
is given to him and to the job at hand. 



Spot Rehearsals 

In the third rehearsal section, the director will find many fine 
points which have to be covered. By this time, the run-throughs 
should have a certain smoothness; the seasoning process has 
borne fruit; the characterizations exist. Can the director go fur- 
ther than this with non-professional actors? Are the problems of 
pace and timing and the finer distinctions of character beyond 
reach? Pace, timing, and finer character detail develop out of 
the essential reality of a scene. 

This is where the spot rehearsal is of inestimable value, for 
finding this reality often happens here. The director should 
schedule as many spot rehearsals as possible during this period. 
If his actors can only come individually three times a week, he 
can still schedule daily spot rehearsals. 

355 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

The Director's Re-Evaluation 

The director should now re-read his play in a quiet place, free 
from the tensions of the theater. By now the play will be more 
than a projection of his own ideal. He will be meeting the play- 
wright again; and, like a doctor observing his patients' symptoms, 
he will probably see very clearly what has been a problem within 
his own show and this while he still has time to work on it. 

Re-reading will aid the director in holding the reality and 
theme, observing the action of the play, and discovering where 
it is going. He will see his actors in motion; and he will be able to 
see extra nuances of character that can be added, bits of busi- 
ness here and there, ways of strengthening the mood, building 
climax, etc. All of this will come rushing out of the script. 

For the first time, perhaps, the director will be able to co- 
ordinate the confused images of rehearsal into a definite picture. 
He will visualize the stage in dimension and color and action. 
This will tend to relieve his own anxiety in much the same way 
that the Relaxed Rehearsal freed his actors. He will, in all prob- 
ability, see his show. 



Seeing The Show 

"Seeing the show" is simply the director's insight into his pro- 
ductionthe moment when he suddenly sees all the aspects inte- 
grated. There will suddenly be rhythm, pace, characterization, flu- 
idity, and a definite unity to all of it. Many scenes will be rough, 
sets will be far from finished, costumes will still be in the "talking" 
stages, and a few actors will be moping around; but it will seem, 
on the whole, a unified piece of work. 

The director may see this unified show for an instant and then 
not see it again for a number of rehearsals. But this is no cause 
for concern it was there, and it will come again. He must now 
clean up rough spots, strengthen relationships, intensify involve- 
ment, and make alterations here and there. 

Once the director has "seen his show/' he must accept it even 
if he feels it should have been different. This is most important. 
There are few directors who are completely satisfied with their 
productions. To work with young people and unseasoned adults, 

356 



Rehearsal and Performance 

the director must be aware of their capacities. If he is not satis- 
fied with his production because of the limitation of his actors, 
he must nevertheless realize that at this stage of growth it is all 
he can expect from them. If there is integrity, playing, life, 
and joy in performance, it will be well worth viewing. 



Stage Fright In The Director 

If the director does not accept Ms show at this late date, he 
will intrude his own emotional problems on the actors. By now, 
he is getting stage fright. He is concerned with whether the audi- 
ence will accept and like "his" presentation. This feeling must be 
hidden from his actors. The very process of doing a show has a 
great deal of natural excitement. If he adds his own feeling of 
hysteria to this, the actors will catch it from him. During this 
period, he may be short-tempered; and he should explain this to 
his actors, warning them that he may be gruff during the integra- 
tion of the technical aspects. They will respond to him most 
sympathetically. 

A director who worries his actors until the last minute, hop- 
ing to squeeze a little more out of them, will not help the play 
in any way. One way to prevent this stage fright is to give the 
production over to the technical aspects of the play in the last 
hours of rehearsal. 



Makeup And The Actor 

This is a good time to have character makeup sessions, es- 
pecially if the play is fantasy which requires unusual makeup. 
Time spent on applying makeup and allowing actors to experi- 
ment with their own characters will aid their work on stage. 
Just as lines must come as a part of the actor himself, so must his 
makeup. It is far better that each actor develop his own makeup, 
with an assist from more experienced people, than to have it ap- 
plied for him. , 

Whenever possible, encourage research on characters. During 
rehearsals for The Clown Who Ran Away, Bobby Kay, a clown 
from the Clyde Beatty Circus, came to the Young Actors Com- 

357 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

pany to tell the cast about clowns and clown makeup. He so en- 
tranced the young actors with his stories of the traditions be- 
hind clown performances and the dignity with which each clown 
puts his mark upon his face that when the time came for them 
to create their own clown characters, not one of them made just 
a "funny face." Each struggled to place his "mark" upon his 
face with all the individuality of a real clown creating his own 
character. 

It is advisable, after a session or two, to have each actor make 
a chart of his own makeup and keep it for reference. If makeup 
is handled as a developing factor in the total fabric of the thea- 
ter experience, children as young as six can learn. (It was not 
an unusual sight at the Young Actors Company to see a seven- 
year-old helping a five-year-old to apply his makeup; although 
it was our guess that, at home, the seven-year-old couldn't even 
comb her hair properly. ) Makeup, like a costume, must be worn 
easily and with conviction. It should not be used for the first time 
on the day of the opening performance. 

Makeup should not totally mask the player, giving him a 
facade to hide behind. It should be recognized for what it is 
an extension of his character, not the basis for it. Eliminating 
makeup, particularly with young actors playing older roles, 
can often provide a valuable experience for both actors and audi- 
ence. This, of course, is particularly true for improvisational 
theater, where a hat or a scarf or a beard on a string is all the 
costume or makeup an actor ever wears as he changes from role 
to role. 

This keeps the actors as "players." As such, they personally 
are always visible to the audience and so help create the "artistic 
detachment" essential to objective viewing and thus keep the au- 
dience "part of the game." 

The Costume Parade 

It is advisable to run the costume parade together with a 
make-up rehearsal. Briefly, the parade is just that: a grouping of 
the actors, completely dressed and made up, so that die director 
can see how they look under the lights. Changes can be made 
quickly, if necessary; and everything will be looked at for fit, 

358 



Rehearsal and Performance 

comfort, etc. If there is no time for a costume parade alone, it 
may be combined with a rehearsal. 

A costume parade can be tedious or fun, depending upon its 
organization. If possible, the director should schedule it at a time 
when his actors will be fresh and free from other commitments. 
It can help to make the last week a joyous, relaxed time, instead 
of an anxiety-ridden one. This time should not be squeezed in. 
The director may need a good number of hours to complete 
the dress parade, depending upon the type of play and the num- 
ber in the cast. 



The First Dress Rehearsal 

There is an old theater superstition that "a bad dress rehearsal 
means a good performance/' This is nothing more than an ob- 
vious attempt to keep everyone from becoming discouraged. 
A first dress rehearsal should be kept as free from tension and 
hysteria as possible, despite all the confusion which it will 
bring. It may, indeed, seem a bit lifeless; but this partial let- 
down is far better than a rehearsal in which chaos is come again. 

Under no circumstances should the first dress rehearsal be 
stopped once the curtain has gone up. As with the run-throughs, 
the director should take notes as the acts progress and should 
have a meeting with the cast after each act to cover sight-lines, 
roughness, etc. He should only bring up those things which 
can be altered without disturbing past work. 

If the director does not "have a show" at the first dress, he 
will not get one by overworking his actors during the last hours. 
He must have faith in himself and in his actors. The first dress 
rehearsal for any play is usually discouraging; but a second dress 
will follow as well as the preview before an invited audience 
to pull the show together. 



The Special Run-Through 

There are no "mistakes" on stage as far as the audience is 
concerned, for they do not know the script or the action of the 
play. And so, an actor need never let his audience know when he 

359 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

has gone astray. The audience knows only what the actors show 
them. 

The special run-through puts the cast completely on their 
own. Developed for child actors, it works equally well with 
adults. It goes as follows: 

At a regularly scheduled run-through of the play (just prior 
to dress rehearsal), tell the cast that in the event of a break of 
any kind (laughter, lost lines, etc.) by one of the actors, all 
the full cast must cover up and keep the scene going. If they 
fail to do so, they will have to go back to the beginning of the 
act. For instance, if an actor breaks at the very end of the second 
act and no one has covered for him, the director quietly calls: 
"Begin the second act, please!"; and the actors must go back 
over the ground they have just covered. 

After a few "begin again's," the director will find his cast de- 
scending upon the culprit who made the break. If this should 
occur, remind them that all of them are equally responsible for 
keeping the play going and they must cover for their fellow 
actors in case of trouble. 6 

This is the fullest expression of the group experience at work. 7 
It puts a severe discipline upon the individual player, since he is 
now directly responsible to the group (the play). At the same 
time, it gives him a deep sense of security; for he knows that no 
matter what happens on stage, and in whatever crises or danger 
he finds himself, the group will come to his aid for the sake of 
the play. 8 

The special run-through is very exciting for the actors and 
keeps them all on their toes, alerted for that moment when it may 
become necessary for them to cover up for a fellow player. After 
one or two such rehearsals, the show will go on even if the very 
roof should fall in. 



6 See also the remarks on self-blocking, p. 156. 

7 The intent of the director is not to harass or punish. He is simply 
functioning as part of the group. This is the last salient point the special 
run-through cuts the actors away from the director, and they are in truth 
"on their own." 

8 Constant adaptability and resourcefulness are of course basic to impro- 
visational theater, and so the special run-through is never needed prior to 
performance. 

360 



Rehearsal and Performance 

The Performance 

The audience is the last spoke which completes the wheel, 
and its relation not only to the play but to the playing is most 
important. The performance is certainly not the end of the line. 
It brings the whole creative process of doing a play to its frui- 
tion; and the audience must be involved in this process. 

No one can use an audience for self-glorification or exhibition- 
istic reasons. If this is done, everything the director and actors 
have worked for will be destroyed. If, on the other hand, the 
whole concept of sharing with the audience is understood, the ac- 
tors will have exciting performances. They will get the feel and 
rhythm of the audience, just as the audience gets the feel and 
the rhythm of the actors and the production. The mark of the fine 
actor is this response to audience. That is why it is desirable to 
give as many performances as possible to allow this response 
to be developed in the actors. 

Freedom and creativity must never go beyond the limitations 
imposed by the play itself. Laughter from the audience often 
causes an actor to lose his head (and his focus). This distorts 
his relation to the whole, as he works each performance for him- 
self to achieve the laughter again. He is the actor working only 
for applause, for personal gratification; and if this persists, then 
the director has somehow failed with him. 

It is difficult to state all the problems which will arise during 
performance. Often the director is forced to work with insuffi- 
ciently trained actors or with people who hold fast to precon- 
ceived ideas of what an actor's role should be. The director's 
own experience and temperament will have to be allowed for. 
He must remember to strive for audience appreciation of the 
play as a whole and not of just one or two of the actors or the set 
or the lighting. The audience's response to the production can 
help the director to evaluate his work. 



Random Pointers 

1. Stay away from the back-stage area during the show. 
Everything should be so well organized that it will run smoothly. 
Messages can always be sent back stage, if necessary. 

361 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

2. Be certain that costumes are always well buttoned and 
sitting right. A runner who is worried about whether his shorts 
will hold up is not free to run. 

3. Be easy and pleasant around the cast if you should drop 
into the dressing rooms. 

4. Have one run-through between performances if possible 
unless they are nightly. If this is not possible, a short talk after 
each performance will help to eliminate the few bits of rough- 
ness or sloppiness that may be appearing here and there. 

5. A short pickup talk prior to performances may be nec- 
essary from time to time. 

6. Rehearsals during the run of the show help actors keep 
focus on the problems in the play and keep them from getting 
lazy and generalizing. They also bring greater clarification of 
random flaws and more intensification of what already exists. 

7. Actors should learn to allow the audience full laughter. 
Begin to train early with the simple rule of allowing laughter 
to reach its peak and then quieting it by a movement before be- 
ginning the next speech. 

8. Back-stage discipline must be observed strictly at all 
times. 

9. The actors will grow in stature during the performances 
if all factors allow them to do so. The stage is the X-ray picture, 
where everything structural shows up. If the play is presented 
shabbily, if its "bones" are weak, this will be seen, just as any 
alien objects show up in the X-ray. False and dishonest charac- 
terizations and relationships come through. This can be under- 
stood and stressed for the actors whenever necessary. 9 

10. Working through the rehearsal plan outlined in this chap- 
ter may not produce a fully seasoned actor in his first show, but 
he will be well on his way. 

11. If, toward the end of the run, the actors decide to "cut 
up," remind them that their last performance is the audience's 
first. Enjoyment must come from the performing itself, not 
from cheap tricks on fellow actors. 



9 In improvisational theater this point would relate to scene structure as 
well. If a scene is structured simply for making jokes and imposing clever- 
ness upon an audience, this would be clearly X-rayed. A true joke comes 
out of a scene and is in fact the core of it. 

362 



XVI 1 1. Post-Mortem and Special Problems 

Every play and every group is different and has individual 
problems peculiar to it; but the need for growth and creative 
expression must be recognized in all. Remember that the tech- 
niques needed to rehearse the play have grown out of the acting 
workshops. 

Recognize growth as against forcing, organic direction as 
against mechanical direction. Remember that mechanics are 
mere devices and that while snapping the finger to achieve a 
fast cue may work, using shadowing, tossing a ball, etc., will give 
organic response to picking up cues. 



The Time Chart For Rehearsals 

The following chart outlines the plan that was followed most 
successfully by the author over her career in working with un- 
seasoned actors. It has produced remarkable results, but of 
course it may be modified as the individual director sees fit. 

363 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

Time Chart for First Rehearsal Section 

DIRECTION PURPOSE 



Children begin here, Tell story 
of play. Gibberish. Give stage 
set in mind, 

Reading of play aloud by di- 
rector, then casting. Or casting 
and then reading play aloud. 

More gibberish, Add Where 
with blackboards of stage lo- 
cale. Characters as cast. 

Adults begin here after casting. 

Sit-down reading, stopping for 
pronounciation, typographical 
errors on sides. 

Second sit-down reading. 

(a) Reading POC on seeing 
the word: vowels, conso- 
nants. 

(b) Concentrate on color, other 
actors, weather. 

(c) Concentrate on visualizing 
stage set, 

Walk-through with sides, first 

act. 

General stage-plan given. 

(a) SPECIALIZED WHERE 

(b) Walk-through with sides, 
second and third acts. 

(a) EXTENDED MOVEMENT fol- 

lowing movement neces- 



Helps cast. Orients actor to 
stage locale. Early work on re- 
lationships. 



Familiarizes actors with stage 
reality. 

Thinking on cluttered stage pic- 
tures started. 

Eases into use of sides and fa- 
miliarizes with content. 



(a) Brings words into dimen- 
sion. 

(b) Helps understanding of 
words. 

(c) Relates spoken words to 
stage environment. 

Non-directional blocking gen- 
eral blocking may be added if 
necessary, setting reality 

(a) Gives flexibility in use of 
set, especially in fantasy. 

(b) Non-directional blocking- 
director keeps notes of bus- 
iness which emerges. 

(a) For business, ease of move- 
ment (unusual blocking 



364 



Post-Mortem and Special Problems 



sary to play. Singing dia- 
logue, use of games, 

(b) Walk-through with sides 
(actors almost off lines) 

(a) Walk- through three acts. 

(b) Stop to clarify relationship, 
when necessary. 

CONTACT 

Sides now taken home for dif- 
ficult readings only. 



(a) BLIND (actors off lines) 



(b) Sit-down reading. Concen- 
trate on the words. 

(c) Concentrate on action cues. 

(d) Extended sound. 

(a) Calling over long 

(Where) distances 

(b) Rehearse outdoors if 
possible 

(c) Director moves a far 
distance from stage, 
calling "share voices!" 
when necessary. 

(d) Singing dialogue. 



comes up). Develops char- 
acter, pace, timing, and total 
group action, 

(b) Keep as much of the new 
action that comes up as 
possible. 

The first step in giving the 
player a sense of the unity of 
the full performance. 

Forces player to see another 
and strengthens relationships, 
and extra stage business 
emerges. 

Shows how to use the tech- 
niques of the Relaxed Re- 
hearsal while reading at home. 

(a) Develops "sixth" sense, tim- 
ing, strengthens stage en- 
vironment and places actor 
solidly within it by giving 
space substance. 

(b) Cleans up speech with no 
danger of rigidity. 

(c) Picks up cues. 

(d) Develops organic voice pro- 
jection. 



365 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 



EXPLORE AND HEIGHTEN (transformation of the beat) should 
be used throughout all rehearsal sections. It fosters exploration 
of content and relationship, 



Time Chart For Second Rehearsal Section 

DIRECTION PURPOSE 

Relaxed Rehearsal Removes anxieties. Helps actors 

visualize the total stage move- 
ment and environment, (in- 
cluding himself). 

Shows dialogue to be an or- 
ganic part of play. 

Complete non-stop run-through Continuity of play established, 
once a week from here on. Speeds seasoning process. 
Wear different costume parts. 
No interruptions (keep notes). 

(a) Rehearsals of individual (a) Heightens all facets of play, 
acts. Stop and start. 

(b) Stage movement why did (b) Gives motivation for action. 
you do that? 

(a) Improvisations around Strengthens individual charac- 
problems (conflict) in play, terization and group relation- 
ships; helpful in mass scenes. 

(b) Improvisations away from Bring life and group agreement 
the play. WHAT'S BEYOND? to on stage scenes. 

Gibberish Freshens meaning of, and ac- 

Spot rehearsals tion behind, words. Creates 

new stage business. 

NO MOTION. Excites new energy from 

deeper sources. 

Wearing costume parts, hand- Gives further clues to help 
ling difficult props; check bi- actor with character, 
ographies. Barefoot rehearsals. 

366 



Post-Mortem and Special Problems 

Acting problems based on situ- Helps develop insight into 

ations in the play reverse characters, play as a whole, 
parts. 

Spot rehearsals on business. Removes awkwardness, 
Whenever show has difficult smoothes way for complex bus- 
scenes, try them in a different iness. Gives new insights, 
way; play games, use space ex- 
ercises. 



Time Chart For Third Rehearsal Section 

DIRECTION PURPOSE 

Director re-reads play. Com- Implements seasoning and 
plete non-stop run-throughs learning process. Gives flow to 
more often. Makeup rehearsals, play. 

(a) Stop and start rehearsals of (a) Heightens all aspects of 
individual acts. Bring in in- pl a 7- 

teresting set-pieces. 

(b) SHADOWING. EXITS AND EN- (b) Helps physicalizing, gives 
TRANCES. BEGIN AND END. extra inspiration, creates 

extra stage business and 
heightens stage energy. 

(c) Work on picking up cues, (c) Pace and timing strength- 
heightening speech and re- ened. 

actions. 

Spot rehearsals. Stage move- Gives actor insight into his role. 

ment: why did you go upstage? Heightens moments in show, 

gives motivation when neces- 
sary. 

Special run-through. Group functions as one unit; 

Actors will meet every crisis 
during performances will be 
able to assist each other. 

Last week of rehearsal. Tech- Integrates technical aspects of 
nical run-through, costume pa- production, 
rade, makeup rehearsal. 

367 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

First Dress Rehearsal Integrates complete show. 

Second Dress Rehearsal. 

Preview Performance. Working for response with sym- 

pathetic audience. 

Day of rest. Relieves tensions of final week. 

First Public Performance. Full creative expression. 



Directing The Child Actor 1 

Most of the non-authoritarian techniques for training the actor 
and directing him for performance used in this handbook were 
originally developed for the sole purpose of retaining the joy of 
playing for children from six to sixteen at the moment of dedi- 
cating them to service in a great art form. Our boys and girls can 
learn to be players on stage and not exhibitionists. A great and 
overwhelming love for the theater can be instilled in them so 
that their performances have reality, exuberance, and a vitality 
that is exciting and refreshing to behold. 

Children can and should be actors in plays for children. The 
average viewer, unfortunately, has a deplorably low standard for 
child performers, and a clever imitation of adult cliches, blatant 
exhibitionism, or cuteness is often called talent. There is no need 
or excuse for distorting the child by imitation of the adult, nor, 
in trying to avoid this problem, is it necessary to limit his theater 
experience to dressed up dramatic-play. 

A twelve-year-old may not be able to play a villain with the 
same psychological insight of an adult, nor would it be in good 
taste for him to do so. However, he can keep the rhythm and 
line of his character and give it his full energy. Like the adult, he 
can develop the ability to select a few physical characteristics 
which he heightens in his role and brings sharply to the atten- 
tion of the audience (see Chapter XII) . 2 

Naturally there are plays with adult characters that are inap- 

a See also Chapters XIII-XV. 

2 By changing the word "child" to "non-professional actor" and the word 
"adult" to 'professional actor" in the context of the foregoing paragraphs, 
we can see that this same problem exists for the older lay actor as well. 

368 



Post-Mortem and Special Problems 

propriate for child actors, and such roles could well be dis- 
torting to the child. But, this same child can play adult charac- 
ters that many fanciful plays call for. 

As far as back-stage work is concerned, an eleven-year-old 
prop man can check his list like an adult. A twelve-year-old can 
follow a cue sheet and handle as many light cues as the play 
demands. The assistant stage manager (the stage manager should 
be an adult) can perform duties and exact discipline from actors 
who will respect his role. 

For ten years, the Young Actors Company in Los Angeles, 
using no one but child actors from six to sixteen, played to city- 
wide audiences and received constant review on the drama pages 
of the metropolitan newspapers. The young actors were re- 
spected for the quality of their work and for the refreshment 
received by the audience from their plays. As actors, children 
can be as exciting and refreshing to view as adults, and they can 
learn to meet every crisis as it arises. At the Young Actors Com- 
pany, and later at the Playmakers in Chicago, the ability to step 
into anothers's role (as a result of improvisational training) with 
little or no rehearsal was such that rarely indeed were there 
understudies for any part. Any message sent back stage, whether 
it was to get something off stage or to end a scene (improvisa- 
tional theater), was handled effortlessly and ingeniously by the 
young actors within the action of the play. 

One of the most difficult problems in rehearsing a show 
with children is adult regulation of his life. A child cannot give 
all his time and attention to the activity. He can rarely, for in- 
stance, say definitely that he will be at rehearsal, since his mother 
may decide he must be somewhere else. He cannot be kept over- 
time, since the average child has an extremely active program 
of school, homework, sports, music lessons, and home chores. 

A few extra reminders when working on a play with children 
up to fifteen years old: 

1. Do not be the "teacher" in the theater-situation. There is 
only the director and the actors. 

2, Always have an adult back stage to be in charge; this is 
usually an assistant or stage manager. Neither parents nor the 
director himself are ever allowed back stage during performance. 

369 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

At the Young Actors Company, there were always the strictest 
orders to keep the director out of back stage during the show. 
And the boys and girls knew they were allowed to enforce it. 

3. For the children as well as the adults, have a call-board 
which they are to use. 

4. All back-stage organization mentioned in this chapter is 
suitable for children. 

5. All recommended rehearsal suggestions are to be followed 
by children as well as adults. 

6. If children come to the theater after school, be certain 
there is some food for them. An energy drop often results just 
from being hungry. 

7. Remind children repeatedly that "an audience does not 
know what the play is about" and thus that any mishaps can be 
turned into part of the play. 



Removing Amateur Qualities 

Many of us have sat through shows cast with children or non- 
professional adults where, aside from an occasional glimmering 
of natural charm or a moment of spontaneity, there was little or 
nothing to redeem the performance. The actors might, indeed, 
have been "expressing themselves," but they were doing so at 
the expense of the audience and the theater reality. 

This section sets down some of the so-called "amateurish'' 
qualities in young and inexperienced actors. It does so not only 
to aid the director in recognizing them but also to show him their 
causes and refer him to the exercises which will help free his 
actors from crippling limitations. 



The Amateur Actor 

1. Has intense stage fright. 

2. Does not know what to do with his hands. 

3. Has awkward stage movement shifts back and forth, 
moves aimlessly about stage. 

4. Feels he must sit down on stage. 

5. Reads lines stiffly, mechanically; forgets lines. 

370 



Post-Mortem and Special Problems 

6. Has poor enunciation, rushes his speeches. 

7. Usually repeats a line he has misread. 

8. Mouthes the words of his fellow actors as they are play- 
ing. 

9. Creates no theater "business." 

10. Has no sense of timing. 

11. Drops cues, is insensitive to pace. 

12. Wears his costume awkwardly; makeup has a s tuck-on 
look. 

13. "Emotes" his lines rather than talks to his fellow actors. 

14. Is exhibitionistic. 

15. Has no feeling for characterization. 

16. "Breaks" on stage. 

17. Has a fear of touching others. 

18. Does not project his voice or his emotions. 

19. Cannot take direction. 

20. Has slight relationships to other actors or the play. 

21. Hangs on to furniture or props. 

22. Becomes his own audience. 

23. Never listens to other actors. 

24. Has no relationship to the audience. 

25. Casts eyes downward (does not look at fellow players) . 
This is a horrendous list, but the majority of child and adult 

lay actors possess at least ten, if not more, of these characteristics. 

Causes and Cures 

1. Stage fright is fear of judgment. The actor is afraid of criti- 
cism, of being ridiculous, of forgetting his lines, etc. When it 
occurs in a trained actor, it is usually the result of rigid authori- 
tarian training. It can be overcome by a dynamic understanding 
of the phrases "share with the audience" and "showing, not 
telling." 

2. Most immature actors use only the mouth and hands. 
When students learn to act with the whole body (physicalize) 
the problem of what to do with the hands disappears. In fact, it 
will never arise after student-actors understand the idea of the 
Point of Concentration, for they will always have a strong objec- 
tive focus while on stage. 

371 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

3. Awkward stage movement is usually the result of imposed 
stage direction. When the actor is trying to remember instead of 
allowing stage movement to evolve out of the stage reality, he 
cannot help but move awkwardly. Any object-involvement exer- 
cise will help here. 

4. The immature actor feels he must sit down on stage, or he 
shifts from foot to foot because he is trying to "hide" from the 
audience. He lacks focus and therefore motivation for being 
where he is. WHERE WITH OBSTACLES will help here (p. 104). 

5. Mechanical reading is the result of not creating reality. 
Recitation of the words has become more important to the actor 
than an understanding of their meaning and relationships. They 
have remained "words" instead of "dialogue." See dialogue (p. 
378); seeing the word (p. 232); gibberish (p. 120); Relaxed Re- 
hearsal (p. 336); and VERBALIZING THE WHERE (p. 128). 

6. Poor enunciation and rushed speeches usually result from 
a lack of understanding on the actor's part that the audience is an 
integral element of theater. Poor enunciation also stems from the 
same source as mechanical reading. In the event that a real physi- 
cal defect exists in the actor's speech, therapeutic exercises may 
be necessary. Otherwise see the exercises in Chapter VIII. 

7. Lines misread and then repeated word for word are exam- 
ples of rote memorization taking its deadly toll of spontaneity. 
Training by rote is also the cause of many other amateurish qual- 
ities. Meeting a crisis on stage should become second nature to 
even the youngest actor. Through training, he can learn to im- 
provise through any problem of lost or misread dialogue (see 
Chapter I). 

8. Mouthing of each other's words is caused by premature 
memorization and often by allowing young actors to take scripts 
home, where they memorize everything on the page. 

9. The ability to create interesting stage business and block- 
ing can come only from a real understanding of group relation- 
ships and involvement (see Chapter VI). 

10. The sense of theater timing can be taught. Timing is rec- 
ognition of others in the theater reality. 

11. Dropped cues and failure to sense pace (like timing) 
occur when an actor is insensitive to his audience and fellow ac- 
tors. All exercises are geared to develop this sensitivity. 

372 



Post-Mortem and Special Problems 

12. The awkward appearance of an actor in his costume and 
makeup may result from his failure to comprehend all the ele- 
ments of the play (set theme, fellow actors, relationships, etc.) 
as an integral whole. Or he may have been given difficult cos- 
tuming too late in the rehearsal period. 

13. Declamatory acting or "emoting" results from isolation 
and using stage subjectively. It is egocentric and exhibitionistic, 
for the actor is unable to relate the words to his fellow actors and 
thus to the inner feelings which have caused them ( see Chapter 
XI). 

14. The exhibitionist, the "cute" child, the "ham"-these 
types result from approval/disapproval orientation and thus lack 
of self-identity (see Chapter I). 

15. Everyone has a natural feeling for characterization in 
varying degrees ( see Chapter XII) . 

16. When actors "break" or fall out of character on stage, they 
have lost sight of the internal relationships of the play and their 
Point of Concentration as well. 

17. This is resistance and fear of involvement. CONTACT and 
GIVE AND TAKE exercises do specifically what growing security in 
the training will do naturally (see pp. 184, 230). 

18. Inadequate projection is caused by fear or neglect of the 
audience. 

19. The inability to take direction often stems from a lack of 
objectivity or inadequate communication between actor and di- 
rector. The actor may not be free enough yet to meet his respon- 
sibility to the group. TELEVISION EXERCISE (p. 202) gives the stu- 
dent a look-in at the director's problems. 

20. The actor with little or no relationship to his fellow ac- 
tors and the play stands on the ground floor of theater training. 
Playing games and using all the acting exercises of group involve- 
ment should help. 

21. When the actor moves hesitantly about his stage, cling- 
ing from chair to chair, or moves aimlessly about the stage, he is 
showing fear of being exposed to the audience, the central prob- 
lem of non-professional theater. Stressing exercises of group in- 
teraction and sharing with the audience will help. 

22. When actors move outside the play and become audience, 

373 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

they are seeking approval. Their Point of Concentration is on 
themselves. 

23. Failure to listen to other actors is a vital problem. It 
means the whole skein of stage relationships has been broken or 
never understood. BLIND (p. 171) is an especially valuable exer- 
cise specifically devoted to eliminating non-listening. 

24. An audience's response comes to the seasoned actor (see 
p. 000) . Be aware that the phrase "share with the audience" is the 
first and most important step. 

25. The actor pulls everything into his immediate environ- 
ment and makes his world the size of a postage stamp. The exer- 
cises WHAT'S BEYOND? (p. 102, SPACE SUBSTANCE (p. 81), CAL- 
LING FROM A LONG DISTANCE (p. 194) and EXTENDED MOVEMENT 

should help break his fear of moving out into the larger environ- 
ment. CONTACT and EYE CONTACT will alleviate fear of looking at 
another player (p. 171). 

The exercises in this book are not uniformly scaled to elimi- 
nate single problems. The exercises are cumulative and if used 
simultaneously will solve the above problems almost before they 
arise. In a short while students will all function organically, and 
when this occurs, the skills, techniques, and spontaneity needed 
in the theater will fast and forever become their own. 



374 



Definition of Terms 



Definition of Terms 

Teaching is necessarily repetitious, so as to make the material 
the students' own. The following terms are defined with this in 
mind in the hope that they will act as a further teaching tool. If 
they seem over-defined, it is because they attempt to fit as many 
readers' frames of reference as possible, so as to spark insights and 
thus clarify the intent of theater games. 

ACT: To make something happen; to move out into the envir- 
onment; to act upon. 

ACTING: Avoiding (resisting) POC by hiding behind a charac- 
ter; subjective manipulation of the art form; using character 
or emotion to avoid contact with the theater reality; mirroring 
one's self; a wall between players. 

ACTING PROBLEM: Solving the POC; a problem when solved 
results in an organic knowledge of the theater technique; a 
problem which prefigures a result; developing theater tech- 
niques; theater games. 

ACTION: The energy released in working a problem; the play 
between actors; playing. 

ACTIVITY: Movement on stage. 

AD-LIB: Not to be confused with improvisation; ad-lib is indi- 
vidual cleverness, not evolved dialogue. 

377 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

ADVANCED STUDENT: A player who involves himself in 
the POC and lets it work for him; a player who accepts the 
rules of the game and works to solve the problem; a player 
who keeps the agreed reality alive; one who plays. 

ASSUMPTION: Not communicating; letting fellow actors or 
audience detail a generality; letting others do actor's work; 
filling in for another player; Show what you mean! Say what 
you mean! 

AUDIENCE (INDIVIDUALS): Our guests; the most revered 
members of the theater; part of the game, not the "lonely 
looker-inners"; a most important part of theater, 

AUTHORITARIANISM: Imposing one's own experiences, 
frames of reference, and behavior patterns upon another; de- 
nial of self-experience to another. 

AWARENESS: Sensory involvement with the environment; 
moving out into the environment. 

BEAT: A measure; the time between crises; a series of scenes 
within a scene; can be one moment or ten minutes; "begin and 
end." 

BECOMING AUDIENCE: Tendency of an actor to lose his 
objective reality and begin to judge himself as he plays a 
scene; looking out to audience to see if they "like" his work; 
watching fellow actors instead of participating in scene; 
watching one's self. 

BELIEVING: Something personal to the actor and not neces- 
sary to creating stage reality, 

BIOGRAPHIES: Information, statistics, background, etc. writ- 
ten about a character in a play so as to place him in given 
categories to assist the actor in playing a role; sometimes use- 
ful in formal theater to help the director to gain insight into 
his actors; should be avoided in improvisational theater, for it 
prevents spontaneous selection of material and keeps players 
from an intuitive experience; "No biographies!" 

BLOCKING: Integration of the players, set pieces, sound and 
light for the stage picture; clarity of movement for the com- 

378 



Definition of Terms 

munication; emphasizing character relationship; physicalizing 
stage life. 

BREAKTHROUGH: The point at which a student's spontane- 
ity arises to meet a crisis on stage; the moment of "letting go" 
resistances and static frames of reference; a moment of seeing 
things from a different point of view; a moment of insight into 
the POC; trusting the scheme; the moment of growth. 

BODILY AWARENESS: Total physical attentiveness to what 
is happening on stage and in the audience; skill in using all 
parts of the body (doors can be shut with feet, and a hip 
can move an object) ; physicalizing. 

BODY MEMORY: Memory retained in the body at the point of 
past experiences; physical memory as opposed to mind or in- 
tellectual retention of past experience; sensory retention of 
past experiences; muscular attitudes; "Let your body remem- 
ber!" 

CHARACTER: People; human beings; real people; the physical 
expression of a person; speaks for himself. 

CHARACTER AGILITY: The ability to spontaneously select 
physical qualities of a chosen character while improvising; 
ability to use image, color, sound, mood, etc. to locate char- 
acter qualities. 

CHARACTERIZATION : Selecting certain physical mannerisms, 
tones of voice, rhythm, etc. in order to play a specific charac- 
ter or type of character; giving life to the character through 
the stage reality. 

COMMUNICATION: Experiencing; the skill of the player in 
sharing his stage reality so the audience can understand; di- 
rect experience as opposed to interpretation or assumption. 

CONFLICT: A tug-of-war with one's self or between players 
calling for some decision; persuasion or goal to be reached; 
lack of agreement; a device for generating stage energy; an 
imposed tension and release as opposed to problem (organic). 

CONTACT: Sensory impact; physical and visual involvement 
with the theater environment (Where, Who, audience, etc.); 

379 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

to touch, see, smell, hear, and look; to know what you touch; 
communication . 

COSTUME PIECES: Partial costume bits which can be used in 
creating character; character costume suggestions as opposed 
to full-dress costumes ( a box full of hats ) . 

CREATION: Create (limited) plus intuit (unlimited) equals 
creation. 

CRISIS: A heightened moment ready to change form; theater 
(playing) is a series of crises; alternative; the peak or breaking 
point of a static moment or situation where many eventuali- 
ties are possible; a moment of tension in which the outcome 
is unknown; the player must be primed to meet any change, 
simple or extraordinary, the crisis may bring. 

DETAIL: Every object, minute or massive, animate or inani- 
mate, that exists within the stage environment. 

DETACHMENT: Necessary for the stage to prevent "acting"; 
ability to relate objectively to avoid "emoting"; relationship 
free of emotional involvement; artistic detachment makes 
"playing" for both actors and audience possible; keeps every- 
one "part of the game"; to become aware of the life of the ob- 
ject; ability to become aware of the life in the environment; 
functioning within the group without being swallowed up by 
it; for the sake of greater stage involvement; "Get lost!" 

DIAGNOSIS: The teacher-director's skill in finding out what 
problems are needed to solve problems. 

DIALOGUE: Words actors use in talking to one another to 
implement and build the reality they have created on stage; 
a vocalization of the physical expression of the scene; verbal 
extension of the involvement and relationship between play- 
ers; verbalization growing organically out of the life of a 
scene. 

DIGNITY: Being one's self at any age; the acceptance of a per- 
son without trying to alter him; sense of self not to be vio- 
lated by "acting." 

DRAMATIC PLAY: Acting out and/or living through old (or 
380 



Definition of Terms 

someone else's ) real life situations to find out how to fit within 
them; common play among nursery school children attempt- 
ing to become that which they fear, or admire, or don't under- 
stand; Dramatic play continued into adult life results in day- 
dreams, wishful thinking, identifying with characters in film, 
stage and literature; acting out old material as opposed to a 
fresh experience; living the character; can be used as a sim- 
plified form of psycho-drama; not usable for the stage. 

EGOCENTRIC: Fear of no support from others or from the en- 
vironment; mistaken self -protection. 

EMOTE: Imposing self on audience; role-playing instead of 
playing a role. 

EMOTION: Organic motion created by the playing; subjective 
emotion carried to the stage is not communication. 

ENERGY: Level of intensity with which one approaches the 
problem; the inspiration released when a problem is solved; 
the power held bound in resistance to solving a problem; the 
power released in "explosion" (spontaneity); diagnostic ac- 
tion; the result of process (playing); contact. 

ENVIRONMENT: The conditioned stage life agreed upon by 
members of the group; all the animate and inanimate objects 
within the theater, including self and the audience; an ex- 
plorable place. 

EQUALITY: Not to be confused with sameness; the right of 
everyone of any age or background to become part of the 
theater community, enter into its activities, view its problems, 
work on them; the right to gain knowledge; the right to knock 
on any door. 

EVALUATION: Method of criticism through involvement with 
the problem rather than each other. 

EXPOSURE: Seeing or being seen directly, not as others would 
like you or themselves to be. 

FEELING: Private to the actor; not for public viewing; feeling 
between players on stage must become the object between 
them; belongs to sensory equipment. 

381 



IMPROVISATION FOB THE THEATER 

FLOORPLAN: A drawing or a plan (on paper or on a black- 
board) of the structure for an acting-problem Where (the ob- 
jects), Who (the actors), What (the activity), POC (the 
problem; a layout of the Where agreed upon and drawn up 
by a group of players; the "field" upon which the "game" will 
be played; a map of the territory the players must enter into 
and explore; groundplan. 

FOCUS: Directing and concentrating attention on a specific 
person, object, or event within the stage reality; to frame a 
person, object, or event on stage; it is the anchor (the static) 
which makes movement possible, 

FRAME OF REFERENCE: A referral point on which judg- 
ments are made; a referral point from which one views the 
world; a reference conditioned (framed) by cultural, familial, 
and educational patterns. 

GAME: An accepted group activity which is limited by rules 
and group agreement; fun, spontaneity, enthusiasm, and joy 
accompany games; parallels the theater experience; improvisa- 
tion structured like a game. 

GENERALIZATION: An assumption which keeps the actor from 
detailed selectivity; lumping many things together under one 
heading or description; putting everything in the same basket; 
occluded sensory perception; refusal to give "life to the ob- 
ject"; assuming others know what you are trying to communi- 
cate; the cliche comes out of a generalization. 

GIBBERISH: Meaningless sounds substituted for recognizable 
words so as to force the players to communicate by physical- 
izing (showing); an acting exercise. 

GOOD TASTE: Allowing something its own character without 
imposing anything alien upon it; adding nothing to detract 
from itself; a sense of the inherent nature of an object, scene, 
or character; it is one's recognition of the nature of something; 
good taste can never be aped; good taste will never offend, 
but "not being offensive" does not necessarily mean that one 
has good taste. 

382 



Definition of Terms 

GROUP: A community of interests; individuals freely gathering 
around a project to explore, build, use, or alter it. 

GROUP AGREEMENT: Group decision; agreed reality be- 
tween players; agreed reality between players and audience; 
acceptance of the rules of the game; group agreement on 
POC; cannot "play" without group agreement; breaks tie to 
teacher-director. 

HEIGHTENING: Intensifying a relationship, a character, or a 
scene on stage; creating a high level of reality; giving a greater 
dimension to life reality; underlining life; enlargement of char- 
acter or event for clarity in communicating to audience; to 
make a point through heightening; using anything or every- 
thing (acting, technical, or verbal) to make an impact. 

HOW: Pre-planning How keeps the intuitive from working by 
plotting of a situation as opposed to meeting whatever comes 
up at the moment of playing; preparing one's self for every 
move as opposed to waiting to see what will happen; fear of 
venturing out into the unknown; giving examples of ways of 
solving the problem; performing. 

ILLUSION: The theater is not illusion, it is a reality agreed 
upon by the group and understood by the audience; subjective 
projection. 

IMAGINATION: Subjective; inventive; creating one's own 
ideas of how things should be; improvisational theater re- 
quires group creation as opposed to individually creating one's 
own idea of how things should be; belonging to the intellect 
as opposed to coining from the intuitive. 

IMPROVISATION: Playing the game; setting out to solve a 
problem with no preconception as to how you will do it; per- 
mitting everything in the environment (animate or inanimate) 
to work for you in solving the problem; it is not the scene, it 
is the way to the scene; a predominate function of the intui- 
tive; use of improvisation brings opportunity to learn theater 
to a cross-section of people; "playing it by ear"; process as op- 
posed to result; not ad-lib or "originality" or "making it up 
by yourself"; a form, if understood, possible to any age group; 

383 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

setting object in motion between players as in a game; solving 
of problems together; the ability to allow the acting problem 
to evolve the scene; a moment in the lives of people without 
needing a plot or story line for the communication; an art 
form; transformation; brings forth details and relationships 
as organic whole; living process. 

IMPROVISED PLAY: A scene or play developed from improvi- 
sation used for performance; group-created material; a scene 
or play developed from situation or scenario; play or scene 
evolving out of the group playing; not a "story conference." 

INNER ACTION: Recognizing an emotion through sensory re- 
sponse; use of inner action allows player the privacy of his 
personal feelings (emotion); using emotion as an object; 
"Physicalize that feeling!" 

INSIGHT: A moment of revelation; seeing that which was there 
all the time; knowing: 

The tree was a tree 
Before you could see 
The tree. 

INSPIRATION : Energy fortified with intuitive knowledge. 

INTELLECT: The computer, collector of information, facts sta- 
tistics, data of all kinds; should not function separately; part 
of an organic whole. 

INTERPRETATION: Giving one's frame of reference as op- 
posed to directly relating to events; adding or subtracting from 
a direct communication; might cause inability to meet a fresh 
moment of experience. 

INTRUDING: Telling how to solve the problem; showing actors 
how to walk, talk, emote, feel, and read lines; meddling; ina- 
bility to "play/' 

INTUITIVE: An area to be prodded and investigated by every- 
one; unhampered knowledge beyond the sensory equipment 
(physical and mental); the area of revelation. 

INVENT: Rearrangement of known phenomena limited by 
personal reality; from the intellect; solo playing. 

384 



Definition of Terms 

INVOLVEMENT: Complete absorption with the agreed object 
(not the other actors) as determined by the POC; earnestly 
entering into the game or exercise; playing; involvement is dis- 
cipline; involvement with object creates release and freedom 
to relate; reflection and absorption. 

JUDGMENT: Subjective placement of good/bad, right/wrong 
based on old frames of reference, cultural or family patterns 
(personal) rather than a fresh response to a moment of expe- 
riencing; imposition. 

LABELS: Terms which tend to obscure their origin and block 
organic knowledge; the use of labels limits one to "things" 
and categories and neglects relationships. 

LEARNED RESPONSE : A reaction rather than an action; keeps 
players from moving out into the environment; keeps players 
from exploration and self-discovery; "That's no way to do it!" 
"Why?" "My teacher said so!"; a shut door. 

LEARNING: The capacity for experiencing. 

MANIPULATION: Using problem, fellow actors, etc. for ego- 
centric purposes; being opportunistic; manifests itself by re- 
sisting relating to fellow players. 

MIND : Part of the sensory equipment; an area of the known. 

MULTIPLE STIMULI: The many things coming out of the en- 
vironment at the player which he must be aware of and act 
upon; many-handedness; the Where, scene development, shar- 
ing with the audience, etc., that the player must act upon si- 
multaneously as a juggler. 

NO MOTION: A series of stills (steps) that create movement; 
an exercise in which movement is broken down into held parts 
and then reassembled back into movement; an exercise which 
shows students that since present movement includes past 
time, they need not dwell on the past; can be used to heighten 
time; gives insight into compulsive action; helps student to 
see his present (on stage) environment and make contact 
with himself within it. 

385 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

NON- ACTING: Involving one's self with the POC; detachment; 
a workmanlike approach to the problems of the theater; keep- 
ing one's personal feelings private; learning to act through 
"non-acting"; showing not telling; "Stop acting!" 

NON-DIRECTIONAL BLOCKING: Sharing the stage picture; 
self-blocking without outside direction; developing the skill 
to see the stage (outward) picture while inside it; group as- 
sistance from fellow players in blocking; necessary technique 
for the actor in improvisational theater; player's skill in evolv- 
ing stage movement from the progressing scene; a way to self- 
identity; helps break dependency on teacher-director. 

NON-VERBAL: Teaching without lectures on techniques for 
the actor; language used only to present and clarify or evalu- 
ate a problem; not telling the student How to solve a problem; 
not "spelling it out"; breaks dependency on the teacher-di- 
rector; non-verbal system of teaching as used in this hand- 
book; another form of communication between players. 

OBJECT: Object and POC may be used interchangeably; sets 
the actor in motion; used for playing, as a ball, between 
players; involvement with object makes relationship between 
players possible; mutual focus on an outside reality (the 
rope between players); a technique to keep actors from sub- 
jective response; meditation; a mutual problem allowing free- 
dom of personal expression in solving it; the springboard into 
the intuitive; the physicalization of an agreed object, feeling, 
or event out of which a scene evolves. 

OBJECTIVE: Anything outside a person; to be objective; the 
ability to allow outside phenomenon its own character and 
life; not changing a reality to suit subjective assumptions; 
being objective is basic to improvisational theater. 

OBJECTIVE REALITY: That which can be seen and used be- 
tween players; created by group agreement; a means of shar- 
ing our humanness; a changing theater reality that springs 
from group agreement. 

OCCUPATION: The stage activity; that which is created by the 
actors and visible to the audience; that which the audience 
shares with the audience; the What. 

386 



Definition of Terms 

ORGANIC: A head-to-foot response where mind (intellect), 
body, and intuition function as one unit; in one piece; part of 
everything, of itself; out of itself; functioning out of total 
humanness. 

PANTOMIME : An art form related to the dance; not to be con- 
fused with "silent scenes" or a "'scene without words." 

PERCEPTION: Knowing without use of the intellect alone; os- 
mosis; awareness of outside phenomenon; ability to reach out 
into the environment; to become the object. 

PERFORMANCE: Not to be confused with exhibitionism; let- 
ting go; a moment of surrender creating harmony and refresh- 
ment; a moment of personal freedom with no ties to the past 
or future. 

PERSONAL FREEDOM: One's own nature; not mirroring oth- 
ers; an expression of self free of authoritarian (approval/dis- 
approval) needs; freedom to accept or reject rules of the 
game; recognition of limitation and freedom to reject or ac- 
cept it; not to be confused with license; freedom from emo- 
tionalism; a moment of reality in which one has a part in the 
construction; freedom from survival clothes; a private matter. 

PERSPECTIVE: Looking into; an objective view; detachment; 
the long view. 

PHYSICALIZATION : Showing and not telling; a physical mani- 
festation of a communication; a physical expression of an at- 
titude; using self to put an object in motion; giving life to the 
object; "Physicalize that feeling! Physicalize that relationship! 
Physicalize that pinball machine, kite, fish, object, taste, etc.!" 
"acting out" is telling, while physicalizing is showing"; a vis- 
ible means of making a subjective communication. 

PLAYER: One who plays; person skilled in creating the theatri- 
cal reality; pulling rabbits out of a hat; one who plays ob- 
jects as opposed to playing self; an actor; a non-acting actor. 

PLAYING: Fun, enjoyment, enthusiasm, trust; heightening the 
object; having relationship with fellow players; involvement 
with the POC; playing generates energy from out-going (ob- 

387 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

jective) ; the physical expression of the life force; a term usable 
instead of rehearsal in improvisational theater. "Let's play!" 

PLAYING A ROLE: Playing as in a game; playing a role and 
not subjective playing of self; sharing a characterization and 
not using a character for emotional outbursts; keeping self- 
identity. 

PLAYWRITING: Manipulation of situation and fellow actors; 
an unwillingness to believe that a scene will evolve out of the 
group playing; not understanding the POC; deliberately using 
old action, dialogue, information, and facts (ad-libbing) in- 
stead of spontaneous selection during improvisation; not 
usable in improvisational theater; "Stop playwriting!" 

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: A chosen agreed object (or 
event) on which to focus; a technique to achieve detachment; 
the object around which the players gather; involvement with 
the POC brings relationships; "trust the POC!" a vehicle that 
transports the player; it opens the student-audience to receive 
the communication; preoccupation. 

PREOCCUPATION: The energy source; that which is not vis- 
ible to the audience; by creating two-way problems, elimi- 
nates "watcher" and thus makes playing possible. 

PRE-PLANNING: Planning how to work a scene as opposed to 
"just letting it happen"; related to "playwriting"; a mental 
rehearsal; "the uncertain child"; pre-planning is to be used 
only for structure. 

PRETEND: Substitution for reality; subjective as opposed to 
real (objective); "If you pretend, it isn't real"; imposing self 
on a problem as opposed to creating reality; thinking about an 
object's reality instead of giving it reality; improvisational 
theater grows out of objective reality; not accepting any 
reality. 

PROBLEM: Not to be confused with conflict (an imposed ten- 
sion and release); a natural tension and release resulting in 
organic (dramatic) action. 

PROBLEM-SOLVING: A system of teaching acting techniques 
388 



Definition of Terms 

through solving of problems as opposed to intellectualizing 
and verbalizing use of material; puts student-actor into ac- 
tion (physicalizes); problem prefigures a result; teacher-di- 
rector and student-actor can establish relationship through 
problem as opposed to involvement with each other; within 
solving the problem is How to play; does away with pre- 
planning; presents a simple operational structure (as in a 
game), so that anyone of any age or background can play. 

PROCESS: The doing; process is goal, and goal is endless 
process; there can be no final statement on a character, rela- 
tionship, scene, system of work. 

PSYCHO-DRAMA: Putting one's own emotion into play to 
create action; living story instead of "in process." 

REACT: Withdrawal; self -protection; response to another's act 
as opposed to self-acting; attacking to avoid changing posi- 
tion; making thrust into the environment instead of moving 
out into it; fear of acting; fear of taking responsibility for an 
action. 

RECALL: Subjective memory (dead); deliberately bringing 
back a personal, private, past life experience to get an emo- 
tional or character quality; confused by many with acting; 
to use past experience, deliberately evoked for a present-time 
problem, is clinical and can be destructive to the theater re- 
ality and artistic detachment; in spontaneous selection, the 
intuitive gives us past experiences organically as part of a 
total life process; can be used by a director as a device (when 
nothing else works) for getting a mood or quality; bringing 
back a past memory through manipulation; related to psycho- 
drama. 

RELATIONSHIP: Contact with fellow players; playing; a mu- 
tual involvement with an object; relationship grows out of ob- 
ject-involvement; allows players the privacy of personal feel- 
ing while playing together; prevents intrusion or meddling. 

RESISTANCE: Manipulation of Where, Who, What; unwilling- 
ness to understand and/or explore the POC; indicated by jokes, 
playwriting, clowning, withdrawal, ''acting"; fear of changing 

389 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

in any way; resistance is held or bottled-up energy; when 
resistance is broken, a new experience takes place. 

RESPECT: Recognition of another; to know one another. 

RIGIDITY: Held in; inability to alter one's point of view; in- 
ability to see another's point of view; armored against contact 
with others; armored against ideas other than one's own; fear 
of contact. 

ROCKING THE BOAT: Unbalanced stage; refers to self-block- 
ing; "You're rocking the boat!"; a term for very young actors 
in teaching them self-blocking. 

ROLE-PLAYING: As opposed to playing a role; imposing a 
character as opposed to creating a role out of the problem; 
psycho-drama; dramatic play; artificial imposition of char- 
acter on self as opposed to allowing natural growth to evolve 
out of relationship; subjective response to "what is a charac- 
ter"; using a character to hide behind; a mask keeping one 
from exposure; withdrawal; solo performance. 

RULES OF THE GAME: Includes the structure (Where, Who 
and What) and the object (POC) plus group agreement. 

SCENE: An event that grows out of the POC; the results of 
playing; a fragment; a moment in the lives of people needing 
no beginning, middle, or end; biography or statistics; the 
scene is the game coming out of the rules; playing is the proc- 
ess out of which the scene evolves by involvement with an 
object (POC) and relationship with fellow players. 

SEASONING THE ACTOR: Integrating all parts of the whole 
(theater techniques, playing, showing, etc.); releasing ability 
to meet all crises with certainty; making one's self comforta- 
ble in the stage environment. 

SECOND CITY: A theater-club with professional actors using 
scene improvisation for performance. 

SEEING: Seeing (objective) as opposed to believing (subjec- 
tive); a term used as opposed to imagining or pretending; 
"See it!"; part of the sensory equipment; to see so you can 
show; to let the audience see a play as in a game; skillful 

390 



Definition of Terms 

playing; to look; seeing the phenomenal world and seeing it; 
seeing as opposed to staring; looking and seeing as opposed 
to pretending to look and thus staring; "If you see it, we (the 
audience) see it!" 

SEEING THE WORD: The physical reality of consonants and 
vowels; the visualization brought up by a word; a sensory con- 
tact with words; the design and shape of sounds. 

SELF: Refers to the natural part of ourselves; free of crippling 
mores, prejudices, rote information, and static frames of ref- 
erence; that part of us capable of direct contact with the en- 
vironment; that which is our own nature; the part of ourselves 
that functions free of the need for approval/disapproval; cut- 
ting through make-up, costume, rags, mannerisms, character, 
junk jewelry, etc., that make up the covering (survival clothes) 
of self; self must be found before one can play; playing helps 
find self. 

SELF-IDENTITY: Having one's own place and allowing others 
theirs; securely placed within an environment; where you are 
is where you are. 

SENSORY: Body and mind; to see, taste, hear, feel, think, per- 
ceive; to know through the physical as opposed to the intui- 
tive. 

SET PIECES: Random furniture, blocks, props used to make the 
Where. 

SHARE WITH YOUR AUDIENCE: Brings harmony and rela- 
tionship betwen players and audience; making audience "part 
of the game"; used in side coaching to develop self-blocking; 
the same as rocking the boat used for very young actors; 
"Share your voice! Share the stage picture! Share yourself!"; 
used from the first workshop to accomplish self-blocking and 
voice projection; removes need for labels; develops ability to 
see the outside view of the stage while inside of it. 

SHOWING: Physicalizing objects, involvements, and relation- 
ships as opposed to verbalizing (telling); spontaneous ex- 
perience; the actor brings his creation or invention into the 
phenomenal world by showing it; physicalizing, 

391 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

SIDE COACHING: An assist given by teacher-director to the 
student-actor during the solving of a problem to help him keep 
focus; a means of giving a student-actor self-identity within 
the theater environment; a message to the total organism; an 
assist in helping the student-actor to function as an organic 
whole. 

SIGHT-LINES: The clarity of vision of an individual in the au- 
dience to every single individual at work on stage. 

SITUATION: A Where, Who, What, and Why which becomes 
the structure for a scene; the framework (skeleton play) in 
which problem is placed; the situation is not the problem; if 
not understood, situation will fall into "playing the story." 

SKELETON PLAY: A set form from which improvisation is 
used; a scenario; a way of building an improvised play; a 
series of beats/scenes which must be filled in by the players; 
a situation or series of situations. 

SPACE: Something about which we know very little; the stage 
area where a reality can be placed; space can be used to 
shape the realities we create; an area of no boundaries; 
without limits; the player uses space to bring reality into the 
phenomenal world; to make space for the object; the larger 
environment; the space beyond; a place to perceive or re- 
ceive a communication. 

SPONTANEITY: A moment of explosion; a free moment of 
self-expression. 

SPONTANEOUS SELECTION: Selecting that which is appro- 
priate to the problem without calculation; a spontaneous 
choice of alternatives at a moment of crisis; since theater is a 
series of crises, spontaneous selection should be working all 
the time; selecting out of the "explosion" that which is 
immediately useful; balanced working of the intuitive and 
the intellect; insight. 

STAGE BUSINESS: A stage activity used to implement, accent, 
intensify, or heighten; the manner in which one plays the 
objects in the environment; the way the "ball" is kept bounc- 

392 



Definition of Terms 

ing; stage business grows out of involvement with objects 
and relationship with fellow actors; GIBBERISH is a special 
exercise useful to this point. 

STAGE FRIGHT: The fear of disapproval or indifference; sep- 
aration of audience and actors, placing audience as viewers 
or judges; fear of exposure; when audience is "part of the 
game/' stage fright leaves. 

STARING: A curtain in front of the eyes to prevent contact with 
others; playing for one's self only; a self -protective wall; "see 
us!" 

STATIC: A held moment having what has happened and what 
will and/or may happen within it; crises. 

STATISTICS: Giving audience and fellow players facts, infor- 
mation, and/or biographies about each other; telling, not 
showing; expressing a character verbally; using facts, past 
information, etc., instead of improvising and letting the char- 
acter come forth; "No facts, no information, no biographies. 
Show us!" 

STORY: A story is an epitaph; the ashes of the fire; story is the 
result (residue) of a process; improvisational theater is proc- 
ess; for story (play) to live, it must be broken down into its 
separate parts or beats (disassembled) to become process 
again; a well-written play is process. 

STRUCTURE: The Where, Who, and What; the field on which 
the game is played. 

STUDENT'S PROGRESS: Any distance a person has traveled 
from his starting point. 

SUBJECTIVE: Self -involved; inability to contact the environ- 
ment and let it show itself; difficulty in playing with others; 
defensiveness which makes it difficult to understand how to 
play the game. 

SUGGESTIONS BY THE AUDIENCE: A primitive audience 
involvement; overtly making audience part of the game. 

393 



IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER 

SURVIVAL CLOTHES: Behaviorisms, mannerisms, dress, I.Q., 
affectations, makeup, personality traits, frames of reference, 
prejudices, body distortions, opportunism used to protect 
ourselves in living; must be seen for what they are to be 
freed for the learning process; status. 

TEACHER-DIRECTOR: Teacher works for the students (un- 
blocking etc.)? director works for the over-all stage; presents 
problems for both the individual experience and the stage 
experience. 

TELLING: Verbalizing the involvements, Where, etc. of a situa- 
tion rather than creating a reality and showing or allowing the 
scene to emerge through physical attitudes, relationships, 
etc.; inaction; non-playing; results of telling are ad-libbing, 
playwriting, manipulation; imposing self on object, not letting 
object move self; "acting." 

THEATER REALITY: Agreed reality; any reality the players 
choose to create; total freedom in creating a reality; giving 
life to a created reality; allowing space for a created reality. 

THEME: The moving thread (life) that weaves itself into every 
beat of the play and unifies all the elements in the produc- 
tion, 

TIMING: Ability to handle the multiple stimuli going on within 
the theater activity. 

TRANSFORMATION: Creation; momentarily breaks through 
isolation, and actors and audience alike receive (ahhh!) the 
appearance of a new reality (theater magic); improvisation. 

TRUSTING THE SCHEME: Letting go and giving ones self 
to playing. 

TWO-WAY PROBLEM: Gives focus to the intellect and thus 
preoccupies the actor so as to remove any inhibiting or cen- 
soring mechanisms that keep him from playing; blanks the 
mind; "I didn't know what I was saying"; preoccupation/ 
occupation. 

VERBALIZATION: Players telling the audience about the 
Where and the character relationships rather than showing; 

394 



Definition of Terms 

teacher-director giving his knowledge to the students; exces- 
sive verbalization of subject matter; suggests egocentricity 
and/or exhibitionism; excessive verbalization on the part of 
student-actor is mistrust of self-ability to show; a cover-up; 
teaching through words as opposed to allowing student- 
actor to experience; teaching swimming verbally without 
allowing anyone in the water. 

VISUALIZATION (IMAGE): The deliberate use of an existing 
form (animate or inanimate) to aid in creating a character or 
a dramatic moment; evoking stimuli for a character or feeling 
through a device outside of the scene involvement. 

WATCHER: A constant "eye" upon us; a restrictive control; 
one who judges; approval/disapproval; fear of the "eye" keeps 
self hidden from fresh experience and brings forth a "dummy" 
self through posturing, delinquency, apathy, stupidity, wordi- 
ness; "a watched pot never boils." 

WHAT: A mutual activity between actors, existing within the 
Where; a reason for being somewhere: "What are you doing 
there?"; part of the structure. 

WHERE: Physical objects existing within the environment of a 
scene or activity; the immediate environment; the general 
environment; the larger environment (beyond); part of the 
structure. 

WHO: The people within the Where; "Who are you?"; "What 
is your relationship?"; part of the structure. 

WORDS: Gibberish, chatter; verbalizing for lack of action; "Just 
words!"; play writing; words as opposed to dialogue; words "in 
place of"; keeps self hidden. 



395 



Recommended Game Books 



Recommended Game Books 

All the following books are published by the H. T. Fitzsimons 
Co. of Chicago. The second, third, and fourth volumes are es- 
pecially useful in working with children up to the age of eleven 
or so. The simple folk games and songs can easily be learned by 
any teacher, and the material is packed with dramatic stories 
in song and dance. These books have been listed because they are 
drawn from folk material and presented in such a way as to pre- 
serve the spirit of play. 

NEVA L. BOYD AND ANNA SPACER. Folk Dances of Bohemia and 
Moravia. 

NEVA L. BOYD AND DAGNY PEDERSON. Folk Games of Denmark 
AND SWEDEN. 

. Folk Games and Gymnastic Play. 

NEVA L. BOYD. Handbook of Games. 
. Hospital and Bedside Games. 

399 



this 

book 

was 

presented 

to 

the people 

of Kansas City 

as a memorial 




to 



ALLM...CRAE3OT,.., 




118270